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Effingham County residents want trails, year-round swimming, open green spaces
Eric Ganther, PATH
Eric Ganther, from PATH, updates the progress of the proposed Hi-Lo Trail from Athens to Chatham County at a public meeting in Guyton on July 17. (Submitted photos)

By Barbara Augsdorfer, Editor for the Effingham Herald


Two meetings last week -- well-attended by members of the public -- showed county planners and commissioners what the residents want to see in Effingham County’s recreational offerings.

Trails and a year-round swimming pool were among the top items.

About 25 residents of Effingham County and a few from Chatham County met with Transportation Planner Eric Ganther of the PATH Foundation July 17 at the Guyton Gym regarding plans and progress made on the proposed Hi-Lo Trail through rural Georgia.

The western edge of Effingham County is included in the preliminary Georgia Hi-Lo Trail map. Greene, Hancock, Washington, Johnson, Emanuel, Bulloch and Candler counties are also involved in the project that is intended to boost recreational, educational, and economic opportunities.

Hi-lo Trail meeting
About 25 people attended the meeting and shared ideas of what they want to have included in the proposed trail.
“A trail is a linear park,” Ganther told the attendees.

He said funding for the trail can come from a variety of sources, and getting public engagement and enthusiasm for the project makes the process of grant funding easier. There are also funding options through Federal programs such as the “Safe Streets for All” act, Housing and Urban Development, and GDOT.

The design of the trail will incorporate stops throughout rural Georgia, which of course, will spur economic development.

While the trail could be used by locals to get to school, take quick trips around town, or just to exercise, other users could be people traveling through as tourists.

“Every ten miles or so, we want a stop where people will eat, drink, shop, spend money,” Ganther said. “And Guyton is adorable.”

The public is invited to complete a survey on the Hi-Lo Trail website at: The survey is open through Aug. 3.

County Parks Master Plan Update

At another well-attended public workshop held by the Effingham County Commissioners before their regular meeting on July 18 in Springfield, representatives from Atlanta-based POND & Co. updated the commissioners on the county’s 15-year Parks Master Plan which was adopted in 2015.

Matt Wilder, vice president and director of the landscape architect group with POND, updated the commissioners of the company’s recent findings. Almost like making a holiday wish list, county residents responded to survey telling planners what they wanted.

Wilder said the survey received 600 responses, which he believes is a good response rate.

“When I say you got only 600 responses, it is actually a pretty impressive turnout,” Wilder explained. “When we do these things, there's not often a lot of community engagement. So the fact that we did get 600 responses, they were pretty diverse.”

Effingham County has a population of about 60,000. The response rate of 600 is one percent of the population.

But even with just one percent of the county’s population responding, Wilder added the responses indicated that people were not just focused on one sport or activity.

“We didn't just get a bunch of soccer people or just a bunch of baseball people,” Wilder said. “People were interested in natural play, passive parks, soccer fields, baseball fields, swimming facilities -- all of the above.

“We asked, ‘what facilities do you wish Effingham County Recreation and Parks offered or provided that are missing today?’ and the number-one response was ‘pools’ followed by ‘trails and paths’,” Wilder told the commissioners in his presentation. “Splash pad was the third and soccer (fields) was the fourth.”

He added that many communities of a similar size to Effingham County have at least one community pool.

The commissioners bandied the pool idea about, along with a splash pad, a lake with a beach, noting that they’re just ideas at this point.

Wilder explained the report considered the county’s existing recreation facilities, their current condition, designs for various sports and capacities, amenities (such as restrooms and lighting), and areas for improvement. The report also looked at spaces for additional recreational facilities and how those facilities will be planned, built, and financed.

The full report can be seen on the county’s website: