As soon as 7-year-old soccer player Jack Hyatt received the ball near the top of the penalty box, he wasted no time. With a quick spin and a hard shot to the far post, Jack scored the first goal in a U-9 Patriots game Saturday afternoon.
It wasn't just any goal. It was the first goal ever scored at the new Blanchard Woods Park.
"This is what can happen when we all unite and have endeavors to benefit not only our generation, but generations to come," Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said.
Cross' words and Jack's goal came at the Blanchard Woods Park grand-opening celebration in Evans. The 150-acre park off Blanchard Road opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and several Columbia County Patriots soccer games followed.
"It's amazing - just an excellent facility," Patriots soccer technical director Forrest Wimberly said. "This will allow us to attract some bigger tournaments."
That's one of many benefits the park will bring to Columbia County residents now that its gates are open. The park also features the area's only NCAA-certified cross country course, which will be used by Augusta State's cross country program and several local high school and middle school programs.
"This is going to be our home course," Augusta State Athletics Director Clint Bryant said at the ceremony. "Our goal for this course in Columbia County is to host an NCAA regional event as well as an NCAA national championship here."
Cross country meets and soccer matches will be held at the park throughout the fall. Of the 150 acres that make up Columbia County's newest park, only 40 have been cleared. Future phases include the addition of at least seven more soccer fields.
"The best is yet to come," Barry Smith, Columbia County's director of community and leisure services, said. "There are also 30 acres of property that's permanently preserved for green space. There's a beautiful creek down there with boulders where you can picnic. There's a lot of things that this park can accommodate."
The first cross country meet at the new park will take place Saturday at 9 a.m. when Augusta State holds the Jaguar Invitational.
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