Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
Over the last several years, Macon County Commissioners have continued to invest in advancing recreational opportunities for the Highlands Community. Continuing that priority, commissioners voted to purchase a 1.74 acre parcel of land for $71,880 to expand Zachary Park in Highlands.
“The property adjoins the Buck Creek recreation facility and will allow the county recreation program to expand the Highlands facility,” said Vice Chair Ronnie Beale when making his motion to purchase the property. “The property is flat and will provide an outstanding recreational facility for that end of the county.”
Commissioners voted to purchase the property after a closed session during the October meeting. The vote to purchase the property was unanimous and will allow the park located along Buck Creek to expand.
The nearly two-acre piece of property was purchased from Rena and Robby Stauffer for the current tax value of the property. The parcel is located on Lyman Zachary Road and was purchased using money from the county’s general fund. The property is adjacent to Zachary Park’s existing eight acre property. The additional acreage will allow expansion of recreational opportunities for Highlands residents including extension of the walking trail.
Zachary Park already includes soccer fields, baseball fields, and a concession stand.
“I have had two groups that have approached me about this property; first for the use of soccer and second for use by the Highlands School cross country team,” said Tate. “The extension of the walking trail will provide a cross country track on one parcel of land that can be used for the high school cross country program.”
Tate believes that because of the location of the new property in relation to the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital, a partnership can be formed to secure funding for the walking trail expansion.
“The property is also very close to our hospital,” added Tate. “We hope to reach out to the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital Foundation to help us get the walking trail built.”
Macon County’s contribution to Zachary Park follows a trend over the last several years to invest in recreation in Highlands. In 2017, Macon County provided $350,000 to Highlands to renovate the Highlands Civic Center which includes a covered, heated junior Olympic size swimming pool. The additional funds for renovations and expansion are in addition to the $550,000 Macon County Commissioners give the town of Highlands annually for the town’s recreation budget.
The town of Highlands levies a specific tax just to fund recreation in Highlands. Highlands raised town property taxes by 2 cents per $100 three years ago, and those funds can only be spent for recreation capital repairs and upgrades.