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Jul. 22, 2019
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City of Gainesville now owns LLOP

By Jane Harrison
 
A new era began for Lake Lanier Olympic Park this month as the city of Gainesville assumed ownership of the venue that hosted 1996 Olympic rowing and paddling events. As of July 1, the 35.5 acre park was added to the string of outdoor jewels managed by the Gainesville Parks & Recreation Department. Prior to legal proceedings that allowed the city to annex the park from Hall County and increase the hotel/motel tax to support it, the venue was jointly managed by the city and Hall County. Each contributed $150,000 annually from 2014 until this fiscal year, which began July 1. The county has committed continued support of $200,000 for fiscal years 2020 and 2021.
 
The city plans to operate and renovate the park from funds generated from the hotel/motel tax, which it raised from its former rate of 6 percent to 8 percent. The two percent increase is expected to generate $300,000 to $350,000 annually for the park.
 
LLOP Executive Director Robyn Lynch, Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan, and City Manager Bryan Lackey answered questions about the park’s new operation in recent and previous interviews with Lakeside News. A summary of their responses follows:
 
Q: What are the benefits of city ownership?
A. The park now has access to city resources through the Gainesville Parks and Recreation Department, which will maintain the buildings and park property. The parks department also has broad marketing capabilities to bring in more events and grant writers to seek more funding. Additionally, the mayor and council members have expressed desire to tackle the multi-million dollar master plan laid out years ago by the Lake Lanier Olympic Park Foundation, previously known as Gainesville-Hall ’96. Improvements include new restrooms on the beach side, which are expected to begin within a year. Boathouse renovations, pavilions, and walking trails are among the items the city hopes to eventually complete. It may also look at how to keep park buildings dry when the lake rises out of its banks.
 
Q: Will park management change?
A. No. Executive Director Lynch and Park Manager James Watson will keep their posts. Lynch started as LLOP Manager in 2017 and was renamed Executive Director last year. Watson started assisting previous manager Morgan House in 2016 and was promoted to manager. The Lake Lanier Rowing Club and Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club will continue to be headquartered at the park, where they lease space through the parks department. The Olympic Park Foundation will function in an advisory capacity and continue to raise funds and promote the clubs and park.
 
Q: How does one register for events or facility rentals at the park? 
A: Nothing will change, for now. Those wanting to register for paddling or rowing classes or other events offered by the clubs may still do so through their respective websites. Rentals of park facilities, such as the Olympic tower meeting room, Olympic plaza, and boathouse, still go through the LLOP website. Eventually, registrations may transition to the parks department.
 
Q: Were the new programs offered this summer (open water swimming/water safety, yoga, and PaddleFit) initiated by the parks department? 
A: No. These are programs Lynch and the foundation have planned for years and they now have the resources to offer them.

Posted online 6/28/19
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