City Focus: Sports and Recreation in Suwannee, GA

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Football, Running Among Activities Suwanee Has To Offer

The City of Suwanee and Gwinnett County have both provided extensive infrastructure for sporting organizations to use.

Suwanee Public Information Officer Lynne DeWilde said most of the city’s parks are designed to be passive. Rather than having their own athletic activities, they’re intended to be used by private individuals or organizations. Although programs like Little League aren’t encouraged, informal sports are just fine.

“We have pickup football happening behind city hall all the time,” DeWilde said.In 2001, city voters passed a $17 million bond to fund the Open Space Initiative that led to the opening of five new parks and adding three miles to the Suwanee Creek Greenway. Now that the initiative is done, the city is looking to enhance the existing parks rather than build new ones.One such project is the 18-hole disc golf course intended for Suwanee Creek Park. The city had asked residents via Facebook and other means what improvements they wanted and disc golf was a popular option.

“Suwanee Creek Park is a great location for that because it’s a large park, it’s 85 acres,” she said.Much of the park is still in its natural state and a disc golf course — wire baskets used as a “hole”to catch Frisbee-like discs — are a way to utilize that space without much disruption.The disc golf course is still being designed by Sean Murphy, a landscape architect who designed White Street Park for the city. DeWilde anticipates the course will be open in early 2014.Also available is the Suwanee Creek Greenway, a four-mile multi-use pathway connecting severalcity parks.

“It’s very popular,” she said. “You’ll see people walking, running, and rolling along throughout the year.”

Some recent improvements included a new restroom facility near the Martin Farm Road access point, widening pathways, replacing asphalt with concrete, and water-collecting measures to control flooding.

One group using the Greenway is the Suwanee Big Peach Runners, which is based in the Town Center Big Peach Running Co. store.Organizer Kermitt Bowen said in October the running group will have been in existence two years.

“In Suwanee it’s a very tight-knit community and the greenway is right behind the store there,” he said.

Runners were already using the greenway, so he decided to invite the community to come run with the store employees.

The group began with 69 participants. It has since grown to the point its Tuesday night runs have between 200 and 250 participants and the Thursday night runs 150. Runners, walkers, joggers, and anyone who wants to live a movement-based lifestyle are welcome. The group even has a newsletter with 1,300 subscribers. In addition to the biweekly running schedule, the newsletter announces events like morning trail runs and breakfasts, product trial offers, and opportunities to hear sponsors speak to the group.

The group’s runs begin at the stage in downtown Suwanee and finish at the store. Participants must sign in at the beginning and sign out at the end, which helps make sure everyone is accounted for. Monitors and water are provided the length of the route. The group also provides markers on the trail so people don’t get lost.

Bowen said the group’s motto is, “Who’s got bragging rights?” Each week, participants can detailtheir achievements, like running in a marathon or losing 100 pounds since they started running.Bowen intends for the group to grow in the future, providing more opportunities for people to get in and stay in shape.

Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation Athletic Coordinator Gary Schussler said the county operates two parks serving Suwanee residents, George Pierce Park and Peachtree Ridge Park. George Pierce has soccer, baseball, and softball fields as well as a multi-purpose field used for soccer and football, while Peachtree Ridge Park has a two-field soccer complex, a four-field baseball complex, and a multi-purpose field used for football and lacrosse.

Though the county provides the facilities, it’s the athletic associations that run the programs there. One association is the North Gwinnett Football Association, based at George Pierce Park.According to NGFA Communications Director Nick Davis, the program offers tackle football for ages six through eighth grade and team cheerleading for grades first through eighth. Kindergarteners canbe mascots.

“NGFA strives to provide a positive and exciting atmosphere for our football players and cheerleaders,” Davis said. “This environment helps boys and girls build teamwork skills that can be applied throughout life. Though we do love wins on the field and cheer competition, the true measure of success is the return of kids year after year.”

Typical participation is 600 to 700 per season. This year, there are just over 400 football players and 220 cheerleaders.

Davis went on to say that NGFA is a strong supporter of Gwinnett’s schools and community and this support runs both ways. The organization has an outstanding relationship with the schools’ football and cheer programs.

Schussler said the county also operates a community center at George Pierce Park. Though it has no gym, it hosts other athletic programs like karate and gymnastics.

George Pierce Park Recreation Program Supervisor Pam Hoffman elaborated.

The karate program, taught by instructor Charles Minter, has classes for four to six year olds,
seven plus, 13 plus, and for adults.

The gymnastics program is not actually done at George Pierce, but is contracted to the nearby GymWorks. Each fall, spring, and winter the program offers weekly classes but the summer features camps where participants practice every day for a week. The classes are for beginners up to fifth grade, with programs like “wiggle worms” and “jumpingbeans” for the youngest set. There are typically 15 to 20 participants per class.

Hoffman said the gymnastics and karate programs have been offered at the center since its founding, although the instructors have been working with the county before that.

The center also offers ballet as well as jazz and hip hop dance lessons. The center also offers zumba and yoga with roughly six to 10 participants per class, as well as an aerobic fitness challenge program for seniors that has 30 to 35 participants.

“Our senior fitness is a big social event,” she said. “They enjoy coming three days a week. They never miss.”

Hoffman also said the center plans to restart tai chi and kickboxing classes, which have been in abeyance.

Gwinnett County PARKS and SPORTS FACILITIES

www.gwinnettparks.com

678-277-0910

George Pierce Park

55 Buford Highway, Suwanee 30024

Info & Rentals: 678-277-0910

Adult Sports Info: 678-277-0891

Youth Sports: 678-277-0855

Trails Hotline: 770-978-5270

Peachtree Ridge Park

3170 Suwanee Creek Road, Suwanee 30024

Info & Rentals: 678-277-0910

Youth Sports Info: 770-814-4914

Trails Hotline: 770-978-5270

Settles Bridge Skate Park

380 Johnson Rd, Suwanee, GA 30024

770-831-4173

ORGANIZATIONS

North Gwinnett Football Association

http://www.ngfa.com/

Atlanta Fire United

www.atlantaunitedsoccer.com

Peachtree Ridge Athletic Association

http://pryaa.com/

City of SUWANEE Parks and Sports Facilities

► Suwanee Parks www.suwanee.com/cityservices.recre ationparks.php

► Town Center Park
350 Town Center Avenue, Suwanee 30024

► Suwanee Creek Park
1170 Buford Highway, Suwanee 30024

► PlayTown Suwanee
425 Main Street, Suwanee 30024

► Sims Lake Park
4600 Suwanee Dam Road, Suwanee 30024

► White Street Park
752 White Street, Suwanee 30024

► City Hall Park
330 Town Center Ave, Suwanee 30024

► Main Street Park
Old Town Suwanee, Suwanee 30024

Matthew W. Quinn
Matthew W. Quinn is a freelance writer from Marietta, Ga. He is also associate editor of The Roswell Current and has edited a weekly newspaper and reported for a daily. An aspiring novelist, he has a book under consideration with two publishers.

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