Kids battle it out to control the soccer ball. Photos Courtesy Alicia Couch Payne
Kids battle it out to control the soccer ball. Photos Courtesy Alicia Couch Payne

With the start of a new year, comes those pesky New Year’s Resolutions.  Many make them, few stick with them.  I typically fall into the “Make them and break them” category.  This year I made one that I am counting on our readers to help me keep.  My resolution isn’t so much about losing weight or getting fit.  It’s about getting out and exploring all the wonderful parks and walking trails in our area.  To document my explorations in hopes it inspires others to do the same.  As I was thinking about what I could do for a New Year’s piece, I realized that I have lived in this area for most of my life and I have yet to fully explore all the parks around us.  Part of this was the fear of the unknown I suppose.  Not knowing what the park had to offer and if it was secure enough to go alone.  I often go walking around my home in Old Town Buford with my dog and I feel safe there.  It’s familiar and I have to admit, comforting.  

During this series, myself and a few willing participants (I promise I didn’t coerce them into it.) will explore a new park each edition.  We will look at the walking trails from the perspective of your average person.  How long is the trail?  Is it secure?  Does it have any particularly challenging parts?  How much time did it take for us to complete?  We will also spotlight the park’s other features as well.

So on a frigid Sunday afternoon, my son Adrian and I set out to explore Gary Pirkle Park.  The park is located at 6195 Austin Garner Road, Sugar Hill, GA 30518. I was excited to check out this park as it’s located directly across the road from one of my old childhood homes.  I was forever trampling through the woods off of Suwanee Dam Rd.  This piece of land I grew up associating with the Garners.  The park opened in 2010 and was named after then Mayor Gary Pirkle.  It has a fully covered 90’ playground area, 5 multi purpose fields in which 2 are natural grass and the other 3 are fully synthetic turf, a community garden, covered pavilions, walking trails, and more.

There’s three trails to pick from with two being only ½ mile long and the longest at a mile.  We felt ambitious so we picked the mile “Orange” trail.  Even with us stopping to take photos, chat with other walkers and check out a couple of large rabbits we saw, it took us 15 minutes to complete.  The trails are paved, clearly marked, well lit, and have benches along the way. There are no hills or other challenging terrain.  Definitely a good trail system for beginner’s or those with injuries that prevent them from tackling rougher terrain.  

Wanting to explore the park a bit more we walked over to the synthetic turf fields to check out the action over there.  Action is definitely what we came across with youth soccer and flag football games in full swing despite the frosty temps.  There were two football and two soccer games going at the same time with fields to spare.  Convenient to the fields were restrooms, bleachers, a large covered pavilion, and a concession stand.  Also within a short distance was the huge covered playground.  The playground is sure to delight any child with the amount of equipment they can swing, climb, and bounce on.  

 Sugar Hill's Toddler Daredevil, Keenan Brown showing off his new gloves.
Sugar Hill’s Toddler Daredevil, Keenan Brown showing off his new gloves.

I found this park to be family and pet friendly.  It is well maintained, well lit, and I felt completely safe during our explorations.  There’s enough variety in the activities it offers to appeal to every family member.  The trails would bore an expert hiker but it’s perfect for the average person looking to burn off some calories.  The whole park is stroller friendly and it also put a lot of thought into handicap accessibility.  

For more information on Gary Pirkle Park and the recreational sports leagues offered, please visit


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