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Column: Sales tax bought Hall County three long-lasting gems
Johnny Vardeman

Use of sales tax revenue has brought about many good things for Hall and other counties that have had the foresight and good fortune to vote in favor of various projects.

Perhaps none were more significant than the 1988 vote that provided funds in Hall County for a nature center, golf course and agricultural center.

The prices for these projects seem almost miniscule today: $3 million for the Chicopee Woods Golf Course, $3 million for the ag center and only $1.2 million for what became Elachee Nature Science Center. What all three have meant to the community, actually North Georgia and beyond, cannot be counted in dollars.

Elachee continues to expand both its offerings and facilities. The golf course in a few short years had to expand from 18 holes to 27 and continues to fill tee times. The ag center has been host to numerous events from horse shows and sales to spring and fall garden expos produced by Hall County Master Gardeners.

All of this was a good use of 2,600 acres donated by Johnson & Johnson, who had been such a good citizen in its decades of operation of Chicopee Manufacturing Corp. When J&J decided on Hall County for its textile plant in 1927, it not only built a model village for its employees, but acquired the extra acreage for its watershed.

Those wooded acres could have gone for industrial development or some other economic development purpose that might have done away with much of those beautiful woodlands. Yet, those primarily greenspace uses are about as good a lure for other business and industrial enterprises as you could have, thanks to the late Ray McRae and many others for their insight and leadership in putting all this together.

Numerous obstacles had to be overcome to bring all three projects to life. One puzzle was how to start a golf course without adequate water supply to keep the grass growing. That was solved with several streams in Chicopee Woods helping provide a 4-acre reservoir.

Four decades later, the wisdom of Johnson & Johnson and local leaders continues to benefit all of North Georgia.

Wetter weather

With thunderstorms and deluges of rainfall this summer, it might seem like one of the wetter ones on record. It might be yet, but the decade of the 1980s was one of the wettest in Hall County’s history.

The late Bill Sellers, who was a National Weather Service observer for years, measured 62.18 inches of rainfall in 1989. That was 1.8 inches of rain more than 1983, which at the time was a record. Hall County’s annual rainfall average is 54.27 inches.

That wet decade was despite a dry and hot 1986. July that year had an average temperature of 82.7, and the thermometer hit 103 degrees on two consecutive days. It also was cold at times, too, the average in December 1981 at 37.9 degrees, January 1985 at 35.6, and a low of 8 degrees Jan. 21, 1985.

How things change, or don’t

Hospitals the last couple of years have seen a shortage of places to put their patients because of the coronavirus pandemic. Sometimes beds, if they could be found, were placed in hallways or closets.

A Type A flu epidemic struck North Georgia in the winter of 1990. Northeast Georgia Medical Center, then Lanier Park Hospital, as well as St. Joseph’s in Dahlonega, Stephens County and Union General in Blairsville all were coping with flu patients who filled most of their beds.

Stockholders today worry about the Dow Jones average falling into the 32,000 range. They were overjoyed in January 1990 when it reached 2,810.

Motorists panicked when a gallon of gas soared by four and a half cents. They worried that it soon could go over a dollar a gallon. It did eventually and has stayed there and far beyond.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; 770-532-2326; or His column publishes weekly.