Effingham Industrial Development Authority members have found a report on possibilities for the Research Forest Tract much to their liking.
The University of Georgia’s Center for Community Design and Preservation had a team of landscape architects and historic preservationists comb through the sprawling tract and across Effingham County in early October. They presented preliminary findings at the end of their stay in Effingham County and delivered a final report last month.
“There is some good information in there,” IDA CEO John Henry said. “I thought they did a great job. They brought some things to my attention I wasn’t aware of.”
In their analysis, the charrette team said Effingham’s proximity to Savannah was both a blessing and a curse. They called being so close to Savannah’s ports and its economic influence a blessing but that same proximity also draws people from Effingham into Savannah for its amenities.
The design team said Effingham should not try to emulate Savannah but should focus on what makes Effingham unique and appealing.
In their report, the design charrette team said that while Effingham County is a great place to buy a house and send kids to school, it loses most of its workforce each day to Savannah and Chatham County and has a deficit of recreational opportunities for residents to participate in when they are at home.
The IDA has plans to set aside from 15 percent to 20 percent of the Research Forest Tract for potential recreation uses, centered around the natural wetlands and potential ponds that need to be dug.
“It is not a development guide,” Henry said. “There are some good ideas and some good out of the box ideas. They show how to approach it not from an industrial development side but from a people friendly side.”
The charrette team also called for the entrance into the tract to appear more like a coastal parkway than as intensive development, allowing access for trucks and cars.
The group also looked at where best to place such sectors as heavy industrial, light industrial, commercial and professional zones. They also discussed potential appearances for a possible nature trail and a retreat/conference center.
“All this information expresses what our original thoughts were,” said IDA board member Rose Harvey.
“It stretches our imaginations a little bit,” added IDA member David Carter.
Henry noted that the study was not a master plan but a collection of suggestions for the Research Forest Tract but was glad to have it in hand before any serious discussions with a land planner commence.