ONE OF THE 97 campsites at Blythe Island Regional Park & Campground in Glynn County, on Georgia’s coast.
A Grady County delegation that went on a camping expedition on the Georgia coast last week came back with a wealth of information and much to consider before moving forward with the development of an R.V. park at Tired Creek Lake.
Grady County Commission Vice Chairman Phillip Drew, Grady County administrator J.C. (Buddy) Johnson III, and Grady County Lake Authority executive director Mike Binion traveled to Blythe Island Regional Park & Campground in Glynn County, June 21-24, with Johnson departing June 23 to attend a funeral service.
Local officials met with Glynn County manager Alan Ours, assistant county manager Kathryn Downs, recreation and parks director Lisa Gurganus and others during their trip.
“What we learned from the governing staff was that the R.V. park was indeed an excellent amenity for the county provided your intention was to allow it to serve as a growth or phase project for other county amenities,” Johnson said.
According to Johnson, the Glynn County manager said the success of the campground had been the Glynn County commission’s decision to require it to be self-supporting. Funds generated by the campground do not go into the county’s general fund, but is invested in the park’s maintenance and operations.
The Glynn County manager suggested Grady County may prefer a development group or private entity build and maintain the R.V. park if the county does not intend to grow beyond the R.V. park, according to Johnson.
“We will need to look at the development of the entire lake properties and all the amenities we hope to have and determine if we should utilize this project for those or simply take the upfront money for the property and the tax monies generated from the business that may take it on. To compare apples to apples, we must look at some of our lake acreage as a canvas to what Blythe Island Park is now in Glynn County. It would be feasible to do something similar if deemed appropriate by the lake authority and commissioners,” Johnson said.
During their visit, the Grady County delegation also learned things Glynn County officials would do differently if they were developing the park from scratch.
According to Johnson, Glynn County officials recommended having more “pull through sites” and all with 30/50 amp power options.
Sewage was another issue Glynn County officials offered advice on. Originally, Blythe Island Park had septic tanks spread throughout the park, but now have transitioned to a small onsite system. However, these type systems cost between $350,000 and $500,000, according to Johnson. The Grady County administrator said the county would have other possible options, but noted that septic tanks are not an option.
Potable water is another item that was discussed. Blythe Island has two main wells to serve its 97 camp sites. Selecting a centralized location for a well is key, the Glynn County personnel told local officials, or else water pressure issues will be a problem.
Johnson noted that the county and lake authority would need to determine if there is a suitable source of water near the proposed camp site at the lake and to measure water quality. Otherwise, the Grady County administrator said the cost of treating and maintaining a water system would have to be evaluated.
The officials from the two counties also discussed the importance of complimentary amenities, of which there are many offered at Blythe Island.
The Blythe Island campground is a dirt base only park and the park staff indicated it was a problem during rain events and extended wet periods. Johnson said if a local project was to be undertaken, the county would look at using crush and run options for a base for camp sites with the option of concrete pad areas.
Primitive camping is also offered at Blythe Island, but Glynn County officials urged local officials to consider keeping it separate from the R.V. sites.
Lake Authority executive director Mike Binion repeated his claim that a similar park at Tired Creek Lake would be profitable. “In my opinion, not only would the county benefit from an R.V. park, but local businesses would also,” Binion said.
Binion is basing his opinion on his experience being a camper himself as well as from his previous career with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. He said the campgrounds with lakes are the ones most visited.
Grady County Commission Vice Chairman Phillip Drew said that Glynn County officials told him that the occupancy rate in 2019 for Blythe Island was approximately 60 percent. “It was a very beautiful campground and they have a super friendly staff,” Drew said.
The Grady County commission vice chairman said the park has two campground hosts that they met with and they work on a volunteer basis in exchange for free utilities. “They keep the park clean and work up to 29 hours a week, similar to how state campgrounds operate.
“They really recommended having more pull thru sites since so many folks have a towing vehicle and if they are just staying overnight they don’t have to unhook for an overnight stay. They can just pull right out and leave,” Drew said.
“We chose this location as Blythe Island is similar in its surroundings and layout as it sets on a lake for fishing, hiking trails, kayaking, canoeing, boat rentals, a bait store, bathhouses, covered picnicking and small event shelters, beach area, and wooded area sites with some privacy for its guests. All these items could easily be incorporated into the Tired Creek Lake R.V. plan,” Johnson said.
The Grady County administrator said the local delegation would be sharing the information they obtained with other members of the county commission and Lake Authority. The two groups will need to discuss all of the pros and cons and come to a consensus before moving forward, according to Johnson.