Three Terrific Parks In Gwinnett County, GA

Atlanta has long been known for having great public spaces, from the Olmsted Linear Park on Ponce de Leon Avenue, to downtown’s Centennial Olympic Park, to the Freedom Parkway’s six-mile greenspace embracing the Jimmy Carter Center.  Less well-known are the city’s suburban green spaces—though Gwinnett County, on the Northeast side of  Metropolitan Atlanta, probably shifted that perception somewhat in 2008, when the county won the National Recreation & Park Association’s Gold Medal as the nation’s best Park Agency.  So let’s take a road trip to central Gwinnett and check out three parks on the south side of the county seat, Lawrenceville.

Three Terrific Parks Map

show route and directions
A markerAlexander Park, 800 Old Snellville Highway, Lawrenceville, GA -
800 Old Snellville Hwy, Lawrenceville, GA 30044, USA
[get directions]

Lawrenceville Park--the wildest of our three terrific parks!

B markerRonald Reagan Park, Lawrenceville, GA -
Ronald Reagan Park, Lawrenceville, GA 30044, USA
[get directions]

Ronald Reagan Park--An energetic "Chihuahua" of a pocket park!

C markerBethesda Park, Lawrenceville, GA -
Bethesda Park, Lawrenceville, GA 30044, USA
[get directions]

Bethesda Park--a hub for the "sweat set!"

Alexander Park occupies a former pasture just south of the Lawrenceville city limits, adjacent to four bustling lanes of Georgia Highway 124.  The official opening was June 13, 2009, but Alexander attracted visitors even before construction ended, and today you will find strollers, sun worshippers, kite flyers, picnickers, moms, dog walkers and a whole panoply of recreational athletes using it pretty much any time during daylight hours.  Call it an instant hit.

Alexander Park:  Walkers
Alexander Park: Walkers

The entrance plaza invites you now, and will only become more seductive as its young trees mature.  There’s a colorful playground—generally in happy use—boasting a special section for children five or younger. The layout leads the eye off toward the pavilions in the middle distance, and the more distant lakeside sheltered viewing dock overlooking Alexander Pond. Those pavilions are great for picnicking, parties, or Recreation Department Seniors activities--one of which appeared to be in progress when I happened by.  (They are also available for rental by the public.) Even  the drinking fountains are thoughtfully designed, offering convenient refreshment not only to humans of all statures but to canine visitors as well!

Alexander Park:  Dogs Drink, Too!
Alexander Park: Dogs Drink, Too!

The open walkways, fields and meadows are balanced with woodland left largely undisturbed.  At wood’s edge I witnessed Bluebirds foraging and squabbling and spotted a Mockingbird’s bicolor tail feathers disappearing into the greenery.  And there’s good reason to suspect the presence of White-tailed Deer in the bottomlands of Pugh Creek along the park’s southern boundary.

Alexander Park:  Lake
Alexander Park: Lake

To be sure, the sheer newness is still visible here and there.  I saw a crew rebuilding a section of the unpaved trail, evidently fixing the drainage; there were a few areas of failed sod, exposing Georgia’s famous—or infamous--red clay; and of course, many of the trees are still underdeveloped.

Alexander Park Information

800 Old Snellville Highway, Lawrenceville 30044

General Information:  770.822.5414

Trails Hotline:  770.978.5270

Park Hours: Sunrise until 11:00pm unless posted otherwise

Amenities ∙ 91 acres ∙ 18-hole disc golf course ∙ 1.4-mile paved multi-purpose trail ∙ 1-mile soft surface trail ∙ Horseshoe pit ∙ Playground ∙ Pavilions ∙ Lake ∙ Lakeview piers ∙ Outdoor classroom ∙ Restrooms ∙ Grill

But Alexander is a space that has clearly been embraced by the public.  The disk golf course—probably the signature amenity—has a comfortably well-worn look already, and the general purpose area behind the plaza already evokes many a pick-up soccer game past.  People of all descriptions—park users mirror Gwinnett’s highly diverse population--mingle casually.  It may not be Utopia--but on this pretty summer morning it could well pass for it.

Alexander Park:  Playground View
Alexander Park: Playground View

Following the sun about 3.6 miles roughly westward from Alexander Park, we come to Ronald Reagan Park, named for the Ronald Reagan Parkway bordering the park’s west side.  If one likens these Gwinnett parks to companion animals, Alexander Park might be a large “outdoor” cat:  well-loved but a bit mysterious, and bearing a scar or two as a badge of lingering wildness.  Ronald Reagan Park is quite different:  a likeable little pocketful of energy, familiar as can be.

Ronald reagan Park:  Lake
Ronald reagan Park: Lake

It, too, has its signature amenities:  horseshoe pits, shuffleboard and bocce courts for the older set, and a small but well-used skate area often humming with youthful energy as skaters polish their tricks.  At just 25 acres, Ronald Reagan doesn’t really have the space for a great running trail—though you’ll occasionally see runners doing laps of its .75-mile multi-purpose trail—but it’s a good space for walkers.  Its small lake—pond might be a better word—and wooded patches please the eye and moderate the glare of the sunniest Georgia days, but can’t quite escape an essential “tameness.”

Ronald Reagan Park:  Skate Area Detail
Ronald Reagan Park: Skate Area Detail

Ronald Reagan Park Information

2777 Five Forks Trickum Road, Lawrenceville 30044

General Info: 770.564.4680

Trails Hot-line: 770.978.5270

Park Hours: Sunrise until sunset unless posted otherwise

Amenities ∙ 25 acres Dog park area Horseshoe pits Shuffleboard courts Small skate area Playground Pavilions Two half-basketball courts Bocce ball courts .75-mile paved multi-purpose trail Restrooms

As at Alexander Park, pets are not forgotten, and Ronald Reagan Park features a dedicated dog park area.  Also as at Alexander, there are some good picnicking opportunities, including pavilions.  Located just across Five Forks Trickum Road from the local branch of the county Library, and near a major local intersection, Ronald Reagan Park tends to stay busy—perhaps even busier than Alexander.  If it’s a lapdog of a space, it’s obviously one sitting squarely in a favorite lap.

Ronald Reagan Park:  Library view
Ronald Reagan Park: Library view

Resuming our westward path, albeit with a slight northerly veer onto the Ronald Reagan Parkway, we need just 3.3 miles to arrive at Bethesda Park.  It’s a big, friendly St. Bernard of a place, welcoming all and sundry to play their favorite games—just don’t call it “shaggy”; this St. Bernard is show-ready.

Bethesda is unquestionably one of the hubs of the Gwinnett park system. It’s 60% larger than Alexander for starters, and the home of more than a dozen sports fields, including some lighted for night play. Soccer, football, baseball and softball all have their places—most of the fields are dedicated to local league play. There are recreational outdoor basketball courts, too. Bethesda Park is definitely a landmark for Gwinnetians belonging to the “sweat set.”

Bethesda Park:  Infield
Bethesda Park: Infield

If that’s not enough recreational bounty, we mustn’t forget the aquatic center with its separate “leisure play” and instructional pools.  Unfortunately picture-taking is not allowed, but the leisure pool is quite a sight; there is a profusion of play structures that’s almost intimidating, especially when the water sprays are turned on to welcome the kids.  The instructional pool, by contrast, caters mostly to seniors, with water aerobics and even arthritis water therapy on the agenda.

Bethesda Park:  Roses Outside Senior Center
Bethesda Park: Roses Outside Senior Center

Bethesda Park Information

225 Bethesda Church Road, Lawrenceville 30044

Bethesda Park Senior Center, Info & Rentals:  770.564.4680

Aquatic Center & Pool Rentals:  678.924.6334

Adult Sports Info:  770.822.5152

Youth Sports Info:  770.978.5271

Trails Hotline:  770.978.5270 

Park Hours: Sunrise until 11:00pm unless posted otherwise

Aquatic Center Hours: Seasonally variable; check online.

Amenities ∙ 159 acres Bethesda Park Senior Center Gwinnett Senior Learning Center Three adult softball fields Seven baseball/softball fields Outdoor basketball courts Football/multi-purpose field with lighted walking track Six soccer fields Restrooms Playgrounds Walking trail around a lake Indoor aquatic center with leisure play and instructional pools 1.5-mile paved multi-purpose trail Pavilions Grill

There’s the outdoor water so beloved by Gwinnett park designers, too: a small lake to beguile the eyes of the walkers circumambulating it on the dedicated walking trail. Runners sometimes use that trail alongside their less speed-obsessed fellow-citizens, but are perhaps a little more prone to crank it up on the 1.5-mile paved multipurpose loop instead. For those seeking quieter relaxations, picnic facilities are available: pavilions, tables, grills. You’ll often spot large groups dining together.

A unique feature of Bethesda is its Senior Learning Center. Gwinnett Parks takes its educational mandate fairly seriously, and one important component of that involves classes oriented toward seniors. Though those classes are spread widely over the entire system, the Learning Center certainly hosts more than its share. Classes range from yoga to Spanish, but possibly the most popular are the exercise and line-dance classes on the one hand, and computer classes on the other. (Evidently, Bethesda’s appeal to the active crowd extends to all ages.) There are more casual recreational opportunities at the Center as well; people drop by to quilt, shoot a quiet game of pool, or just talk.

Bethesda Park:  Senior Center
Bethesda Park: Senior Center

So there you have it: three terrific parks, each different, each a magnet for citizens in need of recreation, all in less than seven miles. Each has its own character, its own terrain, its own strengths. Each is doing its part to make Gwinnett county more than just an area on a map, lost somewhere between Atlanta and the University of Georgia.

Each, already, beloved.

Bethesda Park:  Never Let It Be Said The Locals Are Humorless
Bethesda Park: Never Let It Be Said The Locals Are Humorless

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Comments 2 comments

Woods Walker 4 years ago

About the lake trail and the 1.5 loop trail:

Paved lake trail much shorter much sunnier, and much more level than the 1. 5 mile loop trail. However, shade is limited around the lake. Kids and wildlife lovers will like the ducks and the geese (and even an occasional crane. )

Turtles enjoy the afternoon sun as they lounge on rocks along the lake's edge. (Turtles are usually on the left, a few steps before you get to the first left-hand turn at the end of the lake.)

The 1.5 mile trail is well-shaded, and the terrain is fairly hilly. There are plenty of benches along the trail, for rest stops. My hubby and I enjoyed the trek without taking any rest stops; (we're in our 60's). The trail is a good workout without being too challenging.

This park is a "thumbs-up" in all respects.


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Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Thanks, Woods Walker, what a great comment! Very useful for some, I'd think.

Just to be completely clear, this sounds like Bethesda Park, right?

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