James Buchanan Savannah park

James Buchanan strolls along a path at the new Savannah park, which is nearing completion.

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t’s been years in the making, but the vision of a park for residents of the Savannah community is about to become a reality.

In a way, it’s already a reality. Although the park isn’t officially open, it’s already drawing curiosity and some use from locals.

It’s plain there’s a need to be filled in Savannah, and we’re thrilled to see it being filled.

Since 2013, when Jackson County updated its recreation master plan, there has been a marked effort by county leaders to ensure neighborhood parks dot the breadth and width of Jackson County.

Official action on the park dates back to 2005, when commissioners eyed property on Calvary Church Road in Savannah for the purpose of building a park. In January of 2006 county leaders approved the establishment of a master plan for the East LaPorte River Access and Savannah Community parks.

While East LaPorte moved ahead, the Savannah plan took a detour because of a variety of issues with the Calvary Church Road property.

Jackson County updated is master recreation plan in 2013 with a strong focus on neighborhood parks countywide.

In March of 2016 a public input meeting was held at the Savannah Community Building for the public to weigh in on a new park. In 2017 county commissioners unanimously approved a nearly 2-acre park on Greenway Road (formerly Gay Road). They later approved an additional $150,000 to complete the park, a vision that includes features such a picnic shelter, restrooms, walking trail and playground.

That vision is close to reality.

James Buchanan, who lives adjacent to the property, said “the previous owner had tried to sell me the property. But I knew the Recreation Department was looking for a place for a park, and the owner said he’d be agreeable to selling to the county. I made county commissioners aware; they picked up the ball and ran from there.”

Buchanan said the need for a park in Savannah has long been clear, and that the argument holds water for other communities in Jackson.

“In my opinion we need a park in each of the communities, especially the ones on the outskirts of the county,” Buchanan said. “From Savannah, Mark Watson Park in Sylva is the closest drive, and for folks up on the side roads that can be a pretty good drive. Hopefully in the future we can expand this park and expand the parks program to Qualla, Balsam and other areas as well.”

He says a safe place to exercise and gather will help the health of community residents and the community itself.

“There’s a lot of emphasis on exercise and walking these days, and a lot of people walk that road, but there’s a lot of traffic on it,” Buchanan said. “The park will get people off the street, and it will be a good place for churches to have reunions, family picnics, etc.”

He hopes to see the park completed as envisioned, with a nature walk, observation deck and playground equipment.

But he likes what he sees in place already.

“We really appreciate commissioners stepping up to the plate.”