By Joel Hall
Clayton County District 4 Commissioner Michael Edmondson, along with other county leaders, have broken ground on the county's fifth Special Local Option Sales Tax-funded recreation center. The center, expected to be operational next summer, will serve as the first county recreation center within the Jonesboro city limits.
The groundbreaking took place on Tuesday morning in front of the highly wooded area at 1457 Stockbridge Road in Jonesboro.
Edmondson, said he intends for the 7.2-acre property to serve as the focal point for a pedestrian pathway system that will connect Rock Hill Lake, Rum Creek Park near Government Circle, Jonesboro High School, Jackson Elementary School, and other school system facilities off Stockbridge Road.
"There is a lake called Rock Hill Lake, which was one of the community's swimming holes in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, before Clayton County International Park really blossomed," Edmondson said. "The owner of that lake is in discussions with the county about donating that lake to us, or at least a portion of that lake, which would connect this piece of property to the softball fields off Government
Circle. We can create a pedestrian pathway ...
"We'll be able to have the kids get to the new recreation center without ever getting in a bus, or a car, or having to cross a dangerous street," Edmonson added.
Commissioner Edmondson said the property for the new center was purchased 14 months ago, using $375,000 of money from the 2004 Clayton County SPLOST. He said the total cost of construction for the building will be $6 million, allocated from the 2004 SPLOST money.
The county's fourth recreation center, which has-yet-to-be constructed at a site in Lovejoy, will be built at a similar cost of $6 million with SPLOST funds, Edmondson added. He said both projects are currently out for bids and should be completed by the summer of 2011.
Clayton County Parks and Recreation Director Detrick Stanford said the new recreation center will be about 30,000 to 35,000 square feet in size and will follow the format of the Virginia Burton Gray and Carl Rhodenizer recreation facilities in Riverdale and Rex. However, the new center will have more of a "lodge feel" than the other centers by putting emphasis on natural features.
"There will be trail components throughout the center and we are going to keep a lot of the tree line," Stanford said. "There is gong to be an emphasis on environmental stewardship."
Edmondson said in addition to an indoor jogging trail and several multi-purpose rooms, the facility will take advantage of a natural artesian well on the property to create an indoor, saltwater pool, which he said is less expensive to maintain, and more environmentally friendly than standard chlorinated pools.
"I want to identify as much green technology and as many green initiatives as possible," Edmondson said.
According to Stanford, the recreation facility off Stockbridge Road will represent the county's fifth SPLOST-funded recreation center, following the Jim Huie Recreation Center, Virginia Burton Gray Recreation Center, Carl Rhodenizer Center, and a Lovejoy recreation center, which is yet to be constructed. Stanford said there is enough funding from 2004 SPLOST funds to create a sixth recreation center, or a "destination area" that will serve in the place of a sixth center, but that the location for a sixth center is yet-to-be determined.
Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox, who was present at the ground-breaking, said the center is "well overdue" and believes it's presence will make the city more attractive. He said the pedestrian pathway system accompanying the center will fit into the city's golf cart-friendly initiatives and provide an outlet for youths in the Jonesboro area.
"I'm glad to see it coming," Maddox said. "Since Jonesboro is the county seat, we should be held up as a showplace. If they're [children are] in a recreation center, in an organized program, then they are not standing out in the streets up to mischief. We had a citizen get hit by a car trying to cross Tara Boulevard to get to the Jim Huie Recreation Center. It [the new center] will cut down on a lot of the danger of trying to cross a major thoroughfare to get to a recreation center."