ATV park debate rolls on
An invitation was extended to meet at the black iron gate on Sheep Wallow and Little Mountain Road.
And about 22 people living in the Mill Creek area showed up Monday morning in response to that invitation from Craig Stansberry, owner of Iron Mountain Park, an ATV park and campground.
The 4,300 acre park held its first event over the past weekend which included about 600 riders making use of the ATV track, as well as a concert.
Neighbors appeared affable—some asked questions, some just listened, but there was no shouting or discourtesy. But there were concerns about Stansberry’s proposed park that he has said could play host to anywhere from 50,000 to 400,000 visitors.
Namely those concerns were about traffic and noise.
The inconvenience of traffic going to and from events at the park will be temporary, Stansberry told the group. He said he is building a road across the property from 52 West, the intended entrance.
“There will be no gates on Mill Creek, Sheep Wallow or Little Mountain,” he said. “Once we’ve completed the road and main entrance all traffic and parking will be on the north side of the property. We hope not to have any vehicles in this area.”
County Commissioner Bobby Mayfield said traffic is one of the things the BOC has been concerned about as well.
“That road was never intended for that kind of traffic,” he said. “I went out there multiple times at different times of the day, went around the neighborhood and talked to people, and traffic was their big concern. I pulled over to the side of the road a couple of different times and there never was a traffic backup, but that road is so narrow.”
Saturday afternoon both Mayfield and Commissioner David Miller went in “just to see what it was like,” Mayfield said. “He had a parking area all laid out so I guess people could get in and out easy and traffic never got backed up.”
They spoke with Stansberry, who assured them Mill Creek and the other small roads leading into the property would not be used again for a large event in the future, Mayfield said.
Stansberry told his neighbors he hopes to have the road across the property from Highway 52 completed this year.
“It’s already half-roughed in,” he said.
In the meantime, residents are still concerned about how fast people attending last weekend’s events and workers at the site are driving on Mill Creek Road. Mill Creek starts out as a two-lane road, but fairly quickly becomes much more narrow. In some places, two large trucks can barely squeeze by each other.
However, apparently there’s not much that can be done about slowing drivers down. In Georgia, 55 mph is the speed limit on an unengineered paved road per state law. (OCGA Code Section 40-6-181)
Stansberry told the group he had offered to put up 25 mph signs himself, but DOT denied his request.
The sound of dirt bike and ATV motors for hours on end—even up until 11 p.m. on weekends—was another concern. Stansberry said he plans to put in vegetative barriers wherever the track goes close by a house that is visible.
“I don’t want people to see anybody’s house,” he said. “Part of the experience is to see nature, not houses.”
Noise from the concert was not a problem for most. Some people said they were disappointed not to be able to hear the music, although it didn’t last long due to the torrential rains.
The music took place in a natural bowl on the property which did a good job of blocking the sound, Stansberry said.
“We asked them to turn it up loud and rode around, and you really couldn’t hear it,” he said.
Although the area where the concert was held is not the site originally planned for an amphitheater, it may be the area where it will eventually be located.
Mayfield, Miller and Board Chair Chris Dockery also kept an ear out during the event as well.
“I was in the Little Mountain to 52 area—sat and kind of listened,” Dockery said. “I didn’t really hear anything.”
“I was only out there one time, and didn’t really hear anything,” he said, “but I thought it was important to hear and see the sound and the traffic.”
Mayfield said he made sure to go to the areas that had lodged concerns about sound pollution.
“We made an effort to assess the situation for ourselves, but we didn’t hear anything at any of the subdivisions where people who have been complaining are,” he said. “They’re actually pretty far away. But you never know how sound carries in the mountains.”
Stansberry said he had no other events planned until September, but at least two corporations have plans to use the park to test new products and give demonstrations to potential buyers. In fact, Yamaha has been there since Monday with plans to leave today.
See next week’s Nugget for an update on Tuesday’s public hearing, which was held to discuss the Iron Park plan.