RINGGOLD, Ga. — Come Christmas, a new park will open next to the historic Old Stone Church on U.S. Highway 41 near Ringgold — courtesy of a 1 cent Catoosa County sales tax and state prisoners' labor.
A "picking porch" and covered picnic area are under construction at the newly created Joseph T. McConnell Park, named after a Confederate colonel.
"He was a Civil War hero," county projects administrator Christal Thomas said. "He was in the Civil War, and he's from Ringgold. The historical society, that's the name they chose."
The picking porch, also known as a bandstand, was designed by Ringgold architect Ross Andrews. It will be available to bluegrass, gospel and other types of musical acts, Thomas said.
The picnic area will have handicap-accessible restrooms, said County Commissioner DeWayne Hill, who sells cars across the street from the park at Mack Hill's Auto Sales.
"That's what it takes to get the bus tours," Hill said of the restrooms. "We're hoping it'll help the church [attract tourists]."
The park will be fenced off, and it will have a walking trail, he said.
Hill thinks area students will perform on the picking porch.
"We have some children that sing beautifully at Tyler Creek [Elementary School] and the surrounding area," he said.
A crew of workers from Floyd County Prison in Rome, Ga., has been working 10-hour days from Monday through Thursday since September on the park.
"Everything you see here, they've done," Correctional Officer Brian Cameron said Thursday. "We should be finishing up before Christmas."
The county has a $200,000 budget to create the park from the 2009 special purpose local option sales tax, Thomas said.
"We're hoping to have a grand opening in the spring," she said.
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6651.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.