A public input session on a 310-acre tract of greenspace off Tallassee Road was postponed last week amid concerns that the ACC Leisure Services Department was pushing through plans for the tract too quickly, without consulting potential users and other experts.
ACC purchased the land—known as Oconee Forks or the Tallassee Tract—in 2012 for about $650,000, using SPLOST funds and a grant from The Riverview Foundation and The Conservation Fund. Once a Creek Indian sacred space, it’s one of the largest undeveloped tracts left in Clarke County and includes forests, wetlands, a creek and frontage along the Middle Oconee River, where ACC will one day build a greenway.
Almost three years later, Leisure Services is still creating a master plan for ecological protection and passive recreation, a task it has mainly farmed out to Sand County Studios of Smyrna.
In an email obtained by Flagpole, former Commissioner Carl Jordan criticized the plans as “superficial” and “sketchy” last month and said they were a waste of $60,000 paid to consultants and would delay public access to the park for another year.
Soon after, Leisure Services canceled the May 28 public input session.
“The cancellation will provide staff the opportunity to review additional information related to the project with the Tallassee Tract Master Plan Advisory Group and other stakeholders,” the department said in an announcement. Staff didn’t realize the user group wanted more information until after the input session was already scheduled, according to Park Services Administrator Mel Cochran.
One specific concern voiced by those who’ve been following the project is that Leisure Services wants to include what some have described as a soccer field on land that is supposed to be preserved as a natural, undisturbed space.
Cochran disputed that description, noting that the tract is under a conservation easement. She compared the proposed field to the field at Bishop Park, calling it a “big meadow, if you want to throw Frisbees, if you want to lay out in the sun, if mom wants to bring kids out there to kick a soccer ball around.”
Another public input session is supposed to be scheduled this fall, but a date hasn’t been set.