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IDA looks at digging into Research Forest
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As Effingham Industrial Development Authority members ponder their next step in the massive Research Forest Tract, they’re wondering where and when to start digging in — literally.

IDA members reviewed plans for the 2,700 acre project, looking intently at the intended recreational use of areas of the property.

“We were not ready to put money into horizontal structures,” said IDA Chairman Chap Bennett. “We started thinking about things we could do, what we could do to show (the property) better. So we started talking about the greenspace.”

Hussey, Gay, Bell and DeYoung engineers have done an overall master plan for the sprawling property, including master plans for drainage, water, sewer and reuse water. Setting some of the property aside for greenspace and recreation is a part of the grand design. Earlier master plans have called for nearly one-sixth of Research Forest to be greenspace or recreational use. About 365 acres are declared as wetlands.

Soil samples were taken recently to determine where the IDA could start digging retention ponds and if the dirt removed was marketable.

“Maybe Effingham County residents can enjoy that property, fishing or picnicking,” Bennett said.

IDA Chief Executive Officer John Henry said a plan for recreational uses of areas of the tract could follow the path taken by Chain of Lakes Park in Florida’s Brevard County. He also noted Tattnall County’s Sam’s Pond near Highway 280 that has a primitive campground.

IDA members also are weighing what to do with the dirt taken out for the retention ponds that could ultimately be turned into recreational areas. The market for such soil is not as strong now as it has been, IDA member Rose Harvey said. But the need for good dirt is expected to blossom again, and the IDA has discussed donating the soil removed for the Effingham Parkway. The planned Parkway will bisect the Research Forest Tract.

“By the time we get this going, you’ll see the market increase dramatically,” she said.

IDA members gave HGBD the go-ahead for a proposal on where to dig retention ponds and how big they should be.

“The board is still of the mind we want a couple of large lakes,” IDA member Charles Hinely said.

Henry also pushed IDA members to look into access for the eastern tracts. HGBD engineers also have identified six possible intersections of Highway 21 to get into the property, which is bordered on the eastern side by the CSX rail line and by Hodgeville Road on the west.