- Associated Press - Sunday, January 7, 2018

MCDONOUGH, Ga. (AP) - Local leaders in Henry County have approved a master plan for a park that became a flashpoint in the debate over Confederate symbols when its small museum closed.

Henry County commissioners recently adopted a master plan for Nash Farm Park, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported .

Officials hope the long-term plan will reinvent the green space as a regional destination, the newspaper reported.

The master plan calls for adding walking paths, an heirloom garden, a playground and an amphitheater.

A Civil War battlefield would be preserved.

“This is the initial first step,” Henry County Manager Cheri Hobson-Matthews told commissioners, adding that officials need to prioritize which projects to work on first. “This won’t happen tomorrow.”

Last summer, the small museum at the park became a focal point in the national debate over Confederate monuments when controversy arose over Confederate flags flying on the property. Dozens of Henry County residents - both supporters and opponents of the symbols - attended the commission’s June meeting to react to the closing of the park’s museum.

Owners of the memorabilia pulled their items from the museum after Henry Commissioner Dee Clemmons asked the museum to take down Confederate flags flying on the property, the Journal-Constitution reported. Clemmons also requested that Confederate flags in the facility not be visible from outside the building, the newspaper reported.

Last year’s controversy is in part responsible for the adoption of the plan, Henry County Commissioner Blake Prince said. The plan the board approved Wednesday was actually commissioned in 2008 and sent to the board a year later. But the commissioners never acted on it.

“When all this came up about Nash Farms, I looked back through and found this master plan,” said Prince, who has been trying to get it on the board’s agenda for six months.

Commissioner Johnny Wilson, the lone no vote on the plan’s approval, questioned the wisdom of developing a property the county does not yet own outright. Henry bought the farm in 2008 for $8 million to save it from being developed as housing. The county has been paying down debt on the property, but still owes $2.5 million.

“We still owe a great deal of money on the property itself,” he said. “We need to figure out a plan to pay for it . then we can decide what we’re going to put on it.”

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