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Jun. 23, 2018
3:26 pm


Lynch new leader for Lanier’s Olympic park

By Jane Harrison
Packets of brochures and fliers lined the table inside Robyn Lynch’s new office. The materials heralding a food truck party and exotic world championship at Lake Lanier Olympic Park showed the promoter at work. The recently named venue manager at LLOP had begun executing her public relations skills in print, social media, and networking to do her primary jobs: event planning, fund-raising and community relations.
Gainesville-Hall ’96, LLOP’s governing board, chose Lynch, an experienced fund-raiser, to lead the living relic of the 1996 Olympics through a revival that started more than five years ago. Lynch’s task centers on getting financial backing for a $10 million master plan to keep the Olympic flame aglow, not just for the sports that brought the Games to Lake Lanier, but for a community that is just awakening to a diverse public park.
Lynch hopes a new event, Food Truck Friday, will bring in folks who’ve never visited LLOP. “We want people to realize it’s the community’s park. The rowing club and canoe/kayak club brought it here and kept it running,” she said. But the park culture has expanded well beyond those sports to include wake-boarding contests, concerts, movies, weddings, corporate team-building, al fresco dinners, and even a motorcycle rally. Former manager Morgan House, who resigned in July to sell real estate, pioneered changes in the Olympic waters.
Lynch noted that even though the park has broadened its scope, many area residents still don’t know about it. For instance, she said, out of 40 students visiting the park last month in a Leaders of Hall County event, only five had ever been there.
Lynch touted amenities the park has to offer: a shaded picnic area, beach, seasonal paddleboard and canoe/kayak rentals, and a 2,000-capacity grandstand and plaza overlooking the lake, plus the infrastructure to hold local and international water sports events. She has started hosting tours and presentations to better familiarize people with the unique public asset.
Lynch, 47, came into the job from a background in political and local fund-raising. The Savannah native moved to Gainesville 13 years ago. After traveling statewide with political campaigns, she chose to settle down in what she described as a “very giving, warm, and receptive community.”
She initiated a Health Smart Expo and Chamber Challenge 5K while working at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. She got involved with several local non-profits, including the Junior League of Gainesville-Hall County and Quinlan Visual Arts Center. She said her favorite venture was the creation of WomenSource, a non-profit that encourages personal and professional success for women.
She currently serves as PTA president at North Hall Middle School, where her son, Ryan, is a student. Her daughter, Holly, is enrolled at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville.
After her first weeks on the job, Lynch was getting a grasp on managing a venue with many moving parts. She said challenges include dealing with day to day operation on top of planning for next year’s ICF Dragon Boat World Championships and capital campaigning.
The workload is lightened a bit by assistant manager James Watson, who was hired full-time to handle much of the physical upkeep at the park. On a day that kept Lynch in the office and Watson away for a funeral, trash cans overflowed on the beach side of the park. Porta potties stood alongside the closed restroom in the center of the parking lot. The park cried for attention. The aging boathouse, with decades old infrastructure, does, too.
Lynch knows about the needs. The contracted regular trash pick-up is not enough, she said, when visitors are apparently depositing waste at the park after dark. The restroom situation, an eyesore at best, is also not acceptable. She plans to launch fund-raising activities for new restrooms and a pavilion in the fall, pending U.S. Corps of Engineers approval of the master plan for park renovations.
Last year GH ’96 completed a $1.1 million Phase 1 renovation, installing improvements to the Olympic tower and building a tower-to-plaza bridge. The restroom/pavilion additions, plus a walking path, compose Phase 2. A third phase includes boathouse renovations. The facility, built as a temporary base for the Olympics, “is in great need of TLC,” Lynch said.
The new venue manager, a self-described “outdoor girl,” has gotten her feet wet on a paddleboard and is “learning the terminology” of canoe/kayak and rowing through the clubs that train from the venue. House, hired in 2014 as the first venue manager, grew up in the Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club and pursued Olympic berths in 2008 and 2012. “He was certainly the right guy at the right time,” said Mimi Collins, GH ’96 chairperson. He became the face of the venue, escorting it into a new age and culture.
Collins expressed confidence in the new face at the venue, one that gazes into a future in need of money and continued public support. Lynch was the best candidate for the job, Collins said. “She has great fundraising experience, organizational skills, event planning and people skills and her experience working at the Chamber transitions well” into GH 96’s goals for the venue.
On a hot August day a week before food trucks rolled onto the plaza and a year before thousands of international dragon boaters will hit the water, Lynch retreated briefly from a full agenda to pose for a picture. Some kayakers stroked the waters in the Olympic channel. “It’s so peaceful here,” she said, getting a dose of tranquility in the midst of all she must do to carry a legacy park into the future.

Posted online 8/29/17
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