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By Alicia Couch Payne

 Sugar Hill Council Member Brandon Hembree and Jamie Payne check out the old gold mine. Photo credit: Alicia Couch Payne
Sugar Hill Council Member Brandon Hembree and Jamie Payne check out the old gold mine. Photo credit: Alicia Couch Payne

After several conversations with Sugar Hill City Council Member Brandon Hembree about all things history, especially local history, I was invited to check out a gold mine in Sugar Hill. In the process I was to learn more about Sugar Hill’s future Greenway.

Last Friday night, my husband, Council member Hembree, and myself set off down into the woods off of Level Creek Road.  On land owned by the city for the purpose of putting in the Sugar Hill Greenway lies the mine. It is reported that at one point Sugar Hill had 13 gold mines in the area.

 The small opening is the only access to the mine. Photo credit: Alicia Couch Payne
The small opening is the only access to the mine. Photo credit: Alicia Couch Payne

The mine sits in the side of a hill that leads down to Level Creek. We scramble past a sign advising one to keep out and come to what can best be described as a hole in the ground. Hembree climbs down first. The opening is a bit of a tight squeeze for a tall person. For me, piece of cake.

 Hembree leads the way through the tunnel while having to remain hunched over due to the low ceiling. Photo credit: Alicia Couch Payne
Hembree leads the way through the tunnel while having to remain hunched over due to the low ceiling. Photo credit: Alicia Couch Payne

I instantly noticed the big change in temperature.  The mine was pretty cool. Ahead of us was a tunnel dug into the rock. We could see the marks from pickaxes. The tunnel wasn’t tall enough for my husband or Hembree to stand up straight in but of course I had no problem.

The tunnel had a branch off to the right where the miners followed a vein of gold until it ran out. By the end of the tunnel the air had gotten a little thin. I was busy checking out the ceiling for any potential breaks that could cause rock to fall on us. My dislike of being underground or in a confined space kicked in and I quickly scurried out of the hole to safety.

On our way back to Level Creek Road,  we took a less direct route back for Hembree to show us where the Greenway would run. There’s part of the land that is prone to flooding so the city will be looking at putting boardwalks similar to the ones used in Suwanee’s Greenway.

The proposed route for the Greenway will be in the form of a loop that runs for 11.5 miles with a total of 16.5 miles of trails.  The city has explored all their options and wish to utilize land already owned by the city or another government entity. The Georgia Department of Transportation is one such government entity.  GDOT has several parcels of land they purchased for use in the “Outer Loop” project. Since interest was lost in the “Outer Loop”, GDOT doesn’t need the land.

 Exploring the area around Level Creek where the Greenway will eventually run through. This area is prone to flooding and will require the use of boardwalks. Photo credit: Alicia Couch Payne
Exploring the area around Level Creek where the Greenway will eventually run through. This area is prone to flooding and will require the use of boardwalks. Photo credit: Alicia Couch Payne

When the Sugar Hill Greenway is complete it will make up a part of Gwinnett’s countywide trail master plan that has 9 signature trails making up a network of 320 miles of trails that will link parts of the county together.  

Making the journey out to the old gold mine and site of the future Gold Mine Park, I realized I was visiting both Sugar Hill’s past and it’s future all in one day. The gold mines around Sugar Hill are an important piece of the city’s history and the greenway will one day play an important role in the lives of the residents of Sugar Hill.

*For more information on the Sugar Hill Greenway, please visit www.sugarhillgreenway.com.

**Please note that the gold mine is not open to the public and anyone entering the area will be trespassing.  There are real dangers of serious injury. I took the risk to document this mine to share with the public to help preserve the city’s history.  I noted several large fissures or cracks among the rocks that formed the ceiling of the mine. Rocks littered the floor that once were part of the ceiling.  

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