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Park modifies proposed plan
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Commissioners appear more likely to adopt a master plan for parks and recreation in Dawson County after officials revised the proposal to suit current economic uncertainties.

The board postponed the vote in December saying the park's initial plan, which called for improvements to existing amenities and acquiring land for new parks, was ambitious and unrealistic in today's sluggish economy.

In response to the request to modify the proposal, parks director Lisa Henson told commissioners last week that soccer fields, playgrounds, pavilions, park trails and improvements to existing facilities remain the county's greatest needs.

"We've got to take care of what we've got," Henson said.

The total cost for all recommended system-wide improvements for the planning period of 2012-17 is estimated at $6.39 million.

The amount includes $290,000 to acquire 36 acres adjacent to Rock Creek Park for additional soccer fields, $5.3 million for improvements to Veterans Memorial, Rock Creek and War Hill parks, and $180,000 to link Rock Creek Park to the Etowah River via a walking trail.

Henson said a portion of that total includes an estimated $7,000 to modify the county's existing pool at Veterans Memorial Park to meet standards required by the American Disability Association.

"We just found out within the last 45 days that we've got to now create a zero entry pool ... or put in a portable lift for anyone who's handicapped to access," Henson said. "That has to be done before we can open the pool this year."

As proposed, funding would be a combination of local and federal sources, including grants when available.

"We've really dug into this thing and looked at every aspect of what our current needs are in relationship to the plan and what our future needs are and where things need to be placed and how we're going to approach them," Henson said.

The proposal also suggests increasing budget allocations from the county's general fund through the five-year period. Sales tax allocations and bond referendums were also listed as possible funding sources.

Commissioner James Swafford applauded the park staff and board members for amending the original proposal.

"I commend you for putting priority in maintaining what we already have," he said.

The board will continue discussions on the matter at 6 p.m. Thursday during its regular meeting in the assembly room on the second floor of the new Dawson County Government Center.