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Forsyth Parks Board split over park advertisement policies

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Forsyth County Parks and Recreation Board

The Forsyth County Parks and Recreation Board was deadlocked Jan. 5 on whether to recommend the County Commission remove a rule restricting what businesses can advertise in parks.

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The Jan. 5 Forsyth County Parks and Recreation Board meeting was marked by a lengthy debate over proposed amendments to the Parks and Recreation Department’s corporate sponsorship plan.

The debate focused on a change suggested by Parks and Recreation Director Jim Pryor that, if approved by the County Board of Commissioners, would remove restrictions on the types of businesses that could advertise in parks.

The current sponsorship plan, which has been in place since 2018, restricts any religious or political organizations, groups that compete with Forsyth County’s contractual obligations, or businesses deemed “inappropriate” from sponsoring county parks.

Guidelines also require staff to consider whether potential advertisers “align with the mission of the department” and whether the sponsorship is appropriate. Pryor suggested that the board recommend removing all of these restrictions from the plan, opening up advertising opportunities to any business group that wanted it.

Parks and Recreation board members generally agreed to keep restrictions on religious and political groups, as well as any groups that compete with the county, but they were split over the restriction on businesses considered inappropriate.

Vice Chair Matt McClure raised concerns over removing the restriction, noting that using tobacco and alcohol is not allowed in parks, and allowing businesses to advertise those products would be a “disconnect.”

District 3 Parks Board member Brian Yearwood was the primary opponent to McClure’s point, saying he would rather “open it up to the wild, wild West” than turn away certain sponsors. He said the department needs the advertising money, and major tobacco or alcohol brands likely wouldn’t want to advertise in the parks anyway.

Yearwood noted that many local breweries or distilleries may want to advertise in the parks, but couldn’t if the rule remains in place.

“I would rather be more liberal on the decision and then revisit it if we have to than be too strict with it,” Yearwood said.

When it came down to a vote of approving the new plan with the inappropriate business rule removed, the board was split 2-2. Board Chairman Gary Cooper voted with Yearwood to approve, while District 2 board member Terri Johnson voted against approval along with McClure. District 5 board member Bibi Lopez abstained, saying he was conflicted about the rule.

Despite the deadlock, the board ultimately decided to send the plan with the rule removed to the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, where it will make the final decision on whether the restriction will be removed. Pryor said the commission would hear the recommendation at its Feb. 9 meeting.

Also on the agenda was the withdrawal of a $7.2 million acquisition contract for Polo Fields. When the item was brought up, Pryor said discussions regarding the issue were taking place in executive session and could not be discussed publicly.

Last month, the County Commission discussed a possible land swap with the owners of Polo Fields in which Forsyth County would receive about 39 acres at the fields, including six existing soccer fields, in exchange for about 50 acres of land within Denmark Park.

Forsyth County Commission approves Whataburger location

Reach Jake Drukman at 770-847-8334. Follow him on Twitter @DrukmanJake.

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