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Residents gather to consider Providence Park master plan

Community weighs in on future of park closed for 12 years



MILTON, Ga. — Milton residents are getting a say in the future of Providence Park.

The city held a community meeting last Tuesday to gather public input for potential amenities or uses for the park that the city purchased two years ago from Fulton County.

Representatives from jB+a planning, which conducted a survey of the 42-acre site over the summer, took residents’ questions and compiled lists of wants and concerns from residents regarding the park. Using comments from those in attendance, desired amenities and important concerns were voted on by attendees.

Last Tuesday’s meeting was the first step in creating the master plan for the park’s future. Once a final plan is approved, the master plan could be implemented immediately or phased in due to budget constraints. Representatives from jB+a said with the park’s size, a phase implementation would likely run 5-10 years.

Under Fulton County ownership, the park was closed in 2004 and remained dormant for 12 years after hazardous chemicals were found in the soil, including 55-gallon drums containing unknown substances.

After Milton’s incorporation, the city took ownership of the property in 2015 for $4,200. Due to continued cleanup, the site was not opened until November of last year.

With the future look of the site in the air, perhaps the most concerned resident in the roughly 30 in attendance was Charlie Lancelot, an unsung hero of the park.

In 1995, Lancelot and his wife moved from Virginia to their home that borders the park.

Lancelot moved to the location specifically for its proximity to the grounds, which would provide him with the opportunity to step out of his door and go for runs with his dogs through scenic paths.

Over the course of years, he fell in love with the park, which he maintains is the best he’s ever visited.

So in 2004 when the gates were shut and “No trespassing” signs were placed around the entrance, Lancelot’s beloved park faced an uncertain future. But that didn’t stop him from enjoying it.

“I trespassed,” he said with a smile.

“When the park was closed, it defeated the whole purpose of why I moved here,” he said. “So I spent my time, my own money and my energy in maintaining the trails.”

For over a decade, Lancelot and his gardener took over Fulton County’s maintenance duties, with other visitors who bypassed the no trespassing signs reaping the benefits.

Along with his gardener, Lancelot maintained the trails, even adding new portions on what is now the red trail. They also cleared underbrush, debris and fallen trees and leaves, which he said could cover the trails in just a week’s time in the fall. When they were sure a tree was bound to collapse by disease, they would cut it down and remove it before it presented a hazard.

Now 76, Lancelot still shares a passion for the park now in Milton’s possession. As far as its future, he wants to retain its natural beauty.

“I would like to see it continue to have well-maintained trails,” he said. “I’d also like them to use the amphitheater and open paid campgrounds to generate revenue. Most of all, I want to preserve the natural aspects of the gorgeous park.”

“The idea was a for a natural, low-key, nature recreation area, and that’s how I want it to remain.”

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