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Land swap for soccer in works
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Dawson County government is considering a land swap that could mean more soccer fields for the Rock Creek Sports Complex.

The deal would exchange about 50 acres the Etowah Water and Sewer Authority owns on Dawson Forest Road for 33.5 acres on Bannister Road. That property, owned by Jackie and Jerry Townley, is next to the park.

General manager Brooke Anderson said the authority would then enter into a long-term lease agreement with the county to use the Bannister Road property for recreation.

"The soccer program is bursting at the seams, and that's a good thing," he said. "We have been working with [the Townleys] for quite some time and tried to accommodate a swap of property primarily because the fact that [the county] doesn't have the money to purchase property for the park and rec department."

All parties involved believe the flat topography of the Townley's property is more conducive to soccer fields.

While the properties involved differ in size, Anderson told the commission he believed they are equivalent in value.

The authority, which voted last month to approve the swap pending the county commission's blessing, also plans to cover the costs associated with surveying the properties and having the plats prepared.

Commission Chairman Mike Berg said he sees the swap as "good for the citizens and good for us and quite an accomplishment for Etowah and the board of commissioners."

Anderson said the venture is about the kids of Dawson County and "how we can serve them."

Commissioner James Swafford expressed some concern that the fields might be used only for soccer.

"If soccer goes out of style and some other sport comes in and takes over, we'd like to use it for that," Swafford said.

With close to 400 youth participating in Dawson County Park and Rec soccer each season, director Lisa Henson said the additional land would address an immediate need.

"Our master park plan shows we have a 36-acre deficit for soccer fields and this would fulfill that need at no cost to the taxpayers," she said.

Soccer fields, she said, often can be used for other purposes.

"Our vision is for it to be a soccer complex because that is a great, immediate need we have," she said. "On the other side, our vision is for passive needs for families to enjoy. I think it's a great opportunity and a great partnership."

Unsuccessful attempts have been made in the past to market the Dawson Forest land.

The property is part of an agreement that dates back to the late 1990s and involves the county paying interest on a loan the authority obtained for land to build a water reclamation facility and spray fields.

"I know the property well and have walked both of these pieces," said Commissioner Gary Pichon. "I would point out to the public that we have tried to market this land - Etowah, myself, the development authority - and nobody's showed up yet with even an offer, even a whiff of an offer."