Pamela A. Keene 2016-12-08 03:04:41
On the Course or on the Stage For sports, recreation, entertainment and fitness, Barrow County offers a broad range of choices. The Barrow County Parks, Recreation and Leisure Services Department, which partnered in 2015 with the county’s Senior Center, and the YMCA of Georgia’s Piedmont, with its Brad Akins Branch in Winder, provide activities for all ages all year long. Its two outstanding field complexes provide the perfect setting for competition. Signature Park, touted as one of the best natural fields in Georgia, hosts baseball and softball tournaments year-round. At Lions Club Field, one will find Winder Dixie Youth Baseball where the fundamentals are taught to young boys and girls. From the field to the course, four golf courses, including two of Georgia’s top-rated, provide the perfect outdoor setting for the amateur and professional golfer. Need time on the water? There’s nothing better than an afternoon at Fort Yargo State Park, located one mile south of Winder, for paddle boarding, kayaking or even your family reunion. From campsites to cottages to yurts, accommodations allow you to come for the day, the weekend or the week. In every aspect, Barrow has fine-tuned its formula for recreation, leisure and good health for all ages. LEISURE SERVICES FOR ALL Barrow County’s Leisure Services Center, adjacent to the 66-acre Victor Lord Park, is an epicenter of activities, with basketball in the gym, a stage for performances and events, seven meeting rooms, offices and a concession stand. The park has baseball and softball fields, batting cages, six lighted tennis courts, a multi-use lighted soccer field, playgrounds, pavilions and an outdoor walking trail. “We partner with a number of groups, including the Barrow County Youth Soccer Association, the Barrow County Cheer Association, our schools and our seniors to serve as many people as possible in all ages,” says Dan Magee, director of the Department of Leisure Services. Events throughout the year include a springtime father-daughter dance, holiday 5K jog and fun run, and community pep rallies. Organized play for softball, baseball, soccer, basketball and other sports brings youth and volunteer parent coaches to the park. “We serve close to 2,000 youth each year in these activities. For adults, we often see people come out for pick-up games or to play tennis,” he says. “Our goal is to offer even more activities for people ages 21 to 59, and we’re working on that.” A hub for residents ages 60 and above, the Barrow County Senior Citizens Center serves between 30 and 40 daily lunches and delivers between 25 and 35 meals to those who are homebound through Meals on Wheels, which is also supported by volunteers from the community. Additionally, seniors can participate in health screenings, exercise classes and activities, plus obtain legal aid assistance or attend in formational seminars. “The seniors also enjoy our field trips to places like Pigeon Forge or Charleston, because it gives them a chance to travel with other seniors and to socialize,” Magee says. “People can sign up for day trips to nearby locations like the State Botanical Garden in Athens, or the State Capitol. They are open to all seniors.” Privately operated Signature Park stays busy hosting baseball tournaments featuring teams from aroundthe Southeast. Additionally, it is home to Miracle Field, specially designed to accommodate youngsters with disabilities. Barrow County’s 60,000-square-foot Brad Akins Branch in Winder is one of two facilities owned and managed by the YM CA of Georgia’s Piedmont. Built in the late 1990s, the YM CA promotes healthy living, social responsibility and youth development. “We’re not just a workout place,” says Angie Putman, CEO of the organization that also operates the Bell Family Branch in Hartwell. “We’re a destination for individuals, families, youth, teens and seniors to experience sports, classes, social activities and more.” The Brad Akins Branch has lighted tennis courts, outdoor sports fields, an outdoor trail for walking or running, dance classes in ballet and tap, yoga, Zumba, fine arts programming, after-school activities, summer camps and aquatic facilities. Each year the YMCA teaches approximately 1,000 youth how to swim. Located in the YMCA, the county’s food bank serves 50 or more families each month. Putman says that the YM CA offers financial assistance toward memberships for individuals and families who qualify based on income. “We provide almost $200,000 in financial assistance annually, so that anyone can be part of our programming,” she says. “All in all, we consider ourselves a vital part of the health and quality of life of Barrow County, and our mission is to continue to serve the community.” TAKING THE STAGE Another hallmark of community is the Winder Cultural Arts Center which is owned by the City of Winder. It is used for performances and presentations, and contains a classroom, a catering kitchen and a dining area. One of the Center’s biggest successes is their association with Southern Circuit which brings the best of independent films to communities across the South. Connecting them with the films as well as the filmmakers, it transforms viewing into a community activity. Best of all, viewing the films is free. Inside the Center is the Colleen O. Williams Theater and the Winder-B arrow Community Theatre. Affectionately called “The Colleen” after Winder’s first drama teacher, the theatre is located in a once manufacturing plant that has been renovated and restored with impeccable care, providing a state-of-the-art black box theatre and full theatrical lighting and sound. “We produce seven shows each year, including four on the main stage, and children’s camp and productions,” says Pam Veader, treasurer of the theatre group. “For a small com m unity, we pull actors and audiences from five or six counties. By making live theatre available here, we’re adding to the culture and the quality of life for our citizens.” Comprised solely of volunteers, it is a non-profit group that continues to grow as the community’s love for live production grows. “We wouldn’t even be open without volunteers,” says Veader. One distinguishing feature of the group is that they give a monetary portion from every show to another local non-profit, creating a full circle dynamic. No matter where your passion lies - on the ballfield, on the golf course or on the stage - Barrow offers endless possibilities for you to shine. Barrow County’s fine-tuned formula for leisure and recreation makes coming home rewarding and fulfilling. For more information on the services in this article, visit the following websites: barrowga.org, signatureparksports.com, wdyb,org, gastateparks.org, winderbarrowtheatre.org, and cityofwinder.com. Tee Time YOU’VE GOT GAME IN BARROW Georgia Club, semi-private, and the private Legends at Chateau Elan draw golfers from around the world to play on these top-ranked courses. The county has two other courses, Pine Hills and The Chimneys, both public courses. "Our course at The Georgia Club is known as a golfer-friendly, well-conditioned, scenic place to play," says Mike O'Malley, head golf pro at The Georgia Club. Designed by Denis Griffiths, the 27-hole course features rolling hills and hardwood-lined fairways. "The course is fair, but challenging." Chateau Elan's sprawling 3,500-acre vineyards and resort offers several golf choices, but the queen of the French Provincial estate is the Legends Course at Chateau Elan Estates. Designed by Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead and Kathy Whit worth, working with Denis Griffiths, it hosted the Sarazen World Open Championship for five years in the 1990s. Membership is private, but play is open to people staying at the resort. At The Chimneys, natural rock from the site has been hand-laid along the tees, greens and fairways to distinguish this public course. Located in Winder, the par-72 course also includes a driving range, pro shop and snack bar. Greens and fairways thrive though the course's water reclamation system. As the county's oldest course, Pine Hills has a long tradition with golfers in Barrow. "People who played here 30 years ago are bringing their children and grandchildren and coming here to play," says Bob Hatton, owner of Pine Hills. "We are a wide-open, good beginners' course with very reasonable rates." Set a tee time on Saturdays and Sundays, or enjoy walk-on play during the week. Barrow offers an excellent range of golfing experiences for all levels of players, from beginners to those who are serious about spending time on the links.
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