ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. (AP) -- A new park will provide two very different pastimes -- spirited soccer games and quiet botanical nature walks.
Workers already have staked out playing fields and a parking lot for Frederica Park, off Lawrence Road near the northern tip of St. Simons. When finished the 20-acre park will hold two full-sized athletic fields and a 2-mile-long trail among native trees and plants.
Sea Island Co. had donated land for the park more than a decade ago. But a recent gift to the St. Simons Land Trust kick-started construction.
The anonymous donation came from the estate of a former Sea Island resident, said Russ Marane, president of the Land Trust.
"It was the donor's wish that no more than one-third be used for active recreation, and that the rest be set aside for a botanical area," he said.
The Land Trust is directing the project, and Sea Island Co. will construct and maintain the park for a year before turning it over to Glynn County.
Building the park will go quickly. The fields will be leveled and the grass planted by June, but kids will have to wait until Labor Day to play.
"It takes a while for grass to grow into turf," Marane said.
Instead of grandstands, playing fields will be surrounded by 4- to 6-foot berms, a feature which will make the park usable for festivals and concerts in addition to sports, Marane said.
While sod is planted at Frederica Park, workers will pour more concrete along the Hampton Point bicycle trail that stretches near it. The first 1.1 miles of the trail opened in October. Workers will break ground for the 1.6 mile addition in late April or early May, Marane said. The resulting 2.7 miles of bike bath will complete 60 percent of a path that will eventually run from Sea Island Stables to Hampton Point.
Frederica Park's botanical trail will revert land recently used for pine timber to native trees and plants that will be marked for easy identification.
"A lot of people don't realize all the active species that once existed on the island," Marane said. Dogwoods, red bays, magnolias, olive trees, palms, live oak and water oak will give park visitors a view of what the original maritime forest looked like.
Sharon Flores, president of the Cassina Garden Club, said the possibilities are exciting.
"There are other parks on St. Simons with gardens, but nothing dedicated to the botanical aspect of it," Flores said. "This would definitely be a first."
Designed for soccer, field hockey and rugby, Frederica Park's athletic fields are something the Land Trust has wanted to build for a long time, Marane said.
"It's one of the things that just doesn't exist on St. Simons now. Even if someone wants to play Frisbee or fly kites, there's really no place to go," Marane said. That's because the island's existing parks were constructed for baseball and softball.
Eric Keller, president of the Golden Isles Soccer Association, said the extra soccer fields could definitely be useful to the 500 plus kids in his league.
Right now the group uses fields on Jekyll Island, Howard Coffin Park and the North Glynn recreation center.
Young kids practicing on St. Simons often make do with a patch of grass at Epworth by the Sea or even a back yard, Keller said.
"Space is extremely tight and this would be two full fields of additional space," he said. "It could give them another place to play."