Millions of dollars worth of facility improvements are coming to Northwest Georgia from the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Democrats in Congress in 2021.
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp announced the grants last week as part of a statewide package of about $225 million for 142 projects.
The grant program was made available for eligible nonprofits and local governments to improve assets like parks, recreation facilities and sidewalks, and healthy food access for census tracks disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, according to a news release from the governor's office.
"These investments will have a profound impact on creating opportunities for physical activity, economic growth and enhanced accessibility," state Rep. Mike Cameron, R-Rossville, said in a written statement.
Walker County will administer a $2.2 million grant for upgrades at the Rossville Recreation Center that will include a splash pad and new playground and expand the walking track, according to the governor's office.
The city of Rossville was awarded nearly $426,000 for an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant playground at the John Ross Commons, fencing, an accessible restroom and sidewalks, Cameron said.
The city of LaFayette will receive nearly $2.2 million in grant funding to help develop a multisport park project and Chattooga River Greenway, according to the release from the governor's office.
"It's going to be a big greenway that connects the two parts of the city together" for walkers and biking, Cameron said in a follow-up phone call.
The Chattooga River runs through the center of LaFayette, and the greenway will be close to some of Walker County's large employers, he said, like Roper Corp. Cameron said the city has done multiple surveys, and at the top of the list was a desire for more recreational activities.
Over $4 million will go to Dalton for a sidewalk renovation and landscaping features on Pentz and Cuyler streets and for improvements to the baseball fields at Heritage Point Park, according to the release from the governor's office.
A $3.75 million project will bring streetscapes along Pentz and Cuyler streets into line with the rest of pedestrian-friendly downtown Dalton, Bruce Frazier, Whitfield County communications director, said in a written statement.
The street upgrades will create a link between Burr Performing Arts Park and newly-named Gateway Park on Thornton Avenue, Frazier said. The state grant will fund $2.2 million of the project, with a local match of $1.5 million planned.
Gateway Park is also due for upgrades, Andrew Parker, Dalton city administrator, said in a written statement, and the park and street upgrades can serve as a gateway to downtown and its developments.
"There's been a lot of development downtown that's been spurred on not just by the development of Burr Park, but by the downtown streetscape project back in 2000 that remade downtown from a very sleepy area to the entertainment hub of the city now," Frazier said in a follow-up phone call.
At Heritage Point Park, synthetic turf will be installed on the ballfields' infields, Frazier said. The synthetic turf will improve drainage and make Dalton more competitive as a host for tournaments. The project's budget is $2.5 million, with $2.2 million coming from the state grants and a $300,000 match from the city.
Also, Whitfield County will receive nearly $1 million for refurbishing tennis and pickleball courts at Edwards Park at the north end of the county, according to the release from the governor's office.
Northeast of Dalton, historic Prater's Mill will receive more than $2 million for new bathrooms, parking and walking trails for the portion of the site south of Highway 2, said Jacob Bearden, Whitfield County planning and zoning administrator. The upgrades will end the need to rent portable toilets for events like weddings and the Prater's Mill Country Fair, held every fall, and make the site more accessible, he said in a phone interview.
Whitfield County owns the refurbished mid-1800s-era mill, but the nonprofit organization Prater's Mill Foundation operates and maintains the facility.
"Today, we're investing these funds to see that those most heavily impacted have even more resources at their disposal, and I want to thank our partners for helping us make that possible," Kemp said about the grants in a written statement.
Contact Andrew Wilkins at email@example.com or 423-757-6659.