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Dec. 9, 2018
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LLOP receives regional grant

By Jane Harrison
 
When a revitalized Gainesville-Hall ’96 looked at how to rescue an aging 1996 Olympic relic on Lake Lanier several years ago, the board scoured local, state, federal and private sources for money. Ultimately, they secured $1.1 million to renovate Lake Lanier Olympic Park just in time for a high profile international canoe/kayak Olympic qualifier in 2016.
 
Nearly a third of those funds came through a $300,000 grant from the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, which recently achieved national recognition for the “out of the box” project. The National Association of Development Organizations awarded the Gainesville-based GMRC an Innovation Award for its creative approach in advancing regional community and economic development and improved quality of life.
 
The uniqueness of the LLOP grant netted the award from the umbrella organization over 450 regional planning and development organizations throughout the U.S. “There are two reasons that make this project so deserving,” said Daniel Martin, GMRC Economic Development Director. “First, this facility remains as the only 1996 Olympic venue that is still used for its original purpose,” he said. “Second, a project of this size required a substantial amount of collaboration.”
 
The City of Gainesville, Hall County Government, GH ’96, Appalachian Regional Commission, Georgia Department of Community Affairs, along with private donors joined GMRC to fund LLOP Phase 1 renovations.
 
The remodeling included the addition of handicapped-accessible ramps from the Olympic Plaza to the tower, tower renovations (including bathrooms), and construction of a bridge that leads from the top of the plaza to the second floor of the tower. Construction crews barely picked up their equipment and left before international athletes began arriving for the Pan American Canoe/Kayak Olympic qualifier in May 2016.
 
Such events produce “a huge regional impact,” Martin said. He noted many LLOP events, such as this month’s John Hunter rowing regatta, bring 1,500-2,000 athletes plus families and spectators into North Georgia. LLOP “allows the region to attract rowers, canoers, and kayakers from all over the world, as well as provide the community with program and facilities,” he said.
 
“During these events, participants and families will be spending money at dining, lodging, and retail establishments throughout the region. In fact it is projected that as a result of these improvements and added traffic to the venue, approximately $1.5 million in new tourism dollars will be generated,” Martin added.
 
GH ’96 is eyeing potential grants from GRMC and other sources to fund Phase 2 renovations on the park side of the Olympic venue, across Clarks Bridge Road from the tower. But the board must get U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approval for the improvements before submitting applications, according to Robyn Lynch, LLOP manager. “I feel we’re in the last stages” of Corps’ environmental, architectural and historic preservation reviews, which so far have taken 13 months, she said.
 
She noted that much of the funding from previous grants went into building handicapped-accessible facilities and that Phase 2 also includes new restrooms to accommodate disabled individuals.
 
GH ’96 hopes to eventually get moving on a multi-million dollar renovation of the park side which includes a picnic pavilion and trails plus a re-make of the boathouse as a community center with a circular drive, new restrooms, a foyer displaying artifacts from the park’s Olympic legacy, banquet rooms with an adjoining kitchen, and a wide balcony and windows overlooking the lake.

Posted Online 2/26/18
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