Cobb took a big step Tuesday toward turning Violet F. Stout Park into the county’s first public equestrian facility with the purchase of an additional 87 acres of greenspace.
The $2.6 million acquisition significantly expands the park, which is located near Powder Springs in southwest Cobb, to 304 acres. The new addition is part of a 450-acre expansion of park space across the county paid for with a $27.4 million bond package commissioners approved last year.
The county plans to start building riding trails at Stout Park as well as show rings and paddocks using an additional $2 million from a sales tax approved by voters. The park is currently open for scheduled programs only.
Commissioner Lisa Cupid, who represents the district, welcomed the board’s unanimous decision.
“What this purchase allows is for this to be used as a full equestrian facility,” Cupid said. “I’m grateful to see this property move forward.”
Separately, the board also approved $88,000 to develop a countywide master plan for all new parkland.
The vote was split, however, on the new master plan, with Commissioner Bob Ott in opposition. Ott said the county was getting ahead of itself.
“I have two parks in District 2 that are not open right now because there is no funding to maintain them,” Ott said. “My concern is that this report is going to … be used as an excuse to build more parks when the board hasn’t had a comprehensive discussion on how we’re going to pay to maintain the parks we have, let alone these new parks.”
The county commission came under fire from critics for purchasing more parkland before raising taxes this past summer. The parks were a central promise of Chairman Mike Boyce in his 2016 campaign.
Boyce said he understood Ott’s concerns, but that the county needed a long-term plan to incorporate the new parks into the county budget and the existing parks master plan approved just last month.
Previous purchases in the new plan include 30 acres known as the Tritt property in East Cobb that had previously been eyed by developers for a senior residential development.
“If you don’t have a plan, you have a vacuum,” Boyce said.
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