ONE OF THE 97 campsites at Blythe Island Regional Park & Campground in Glynn County, on Georgia’s coast.
The Grady Growth, Marketing & Development Committee wrapped up its initial scope of work on July 27 and the committee’s findings were presented Monday at a joint meeting of the Grady County Commission and Grady County Lake Authority.
Trey Gainous, formerly with the Cairo-Grady County Chamber of Commerce, served as the facilitator for the committee and he concluded his work by making the presentation of the committee’s recommendations at the joint meeting held this week.
The G.G.M.D.C. previously selected and proposed a new slogan for the county to be used in marketing efforts going forward and the Grady County Commission previously adopted the “Opportunity Awaits” mantra.
“That should be the undertone of everything we do. It creates intrigue and we can sell that,” Gainous said.
The G.G.M.D.C. is also recommending the county and the cities of Cairo and Whigham jointly fund a new tourism board and employ a tourism director who concentrates on promoting tourism in Grady County.
However, at the group’s recommendation, number one is to generate a feasibility study of assets, activities and events surrounding Tired Creek Lake. The group suggests the study include, but not be limited to: R.V. park development, a trail system both on land and on the lake, primitive camping, and infrastructure including water, sewer and electricity.
Grady County Commissioner Phillip Drew updated his fellow commissioners and members of the lake authority Monday on recent discussions he and Lake Authority executive director Mike Binion had had with representatives of the Archway Partnership concerning an R.V. park at the lake. According to Drew, Archway students are assisting in laying out a design for the park with 80 camp sites, ultimately, but with 25 to start.
Drew said that the lack of water and sewer at the lake site is the county’s biggest obstacle to developing the lake. He also briefed officials on his recent trip to Glynn County’s Blythe Island park with Grady County administrator J.C. (Buddy) Johnson III, and Binion.
According to Johnson, the Blythe Island development is most similar to the type of development he believes would be best suited at Tired Creek. In addition to camping, the park features picnic areas, community pavilions and a beach area.
Commissioner Drew said the park is self-sufficient and all revenues generated at the park go into a fund for the maintenance and operation of the park.
Blythe Island has 97 sites and according to Drew, the occupancy rate in 2019 was approximately 70 percent.
Commissioner June Knight questioned how difficult it would be to have electricity run to the proposed R.V. park site off Cedar Springs Road. According to Johnson, “I feel like they (Grady E.M.C.) can do it fairly reasonable” but the county administrator said that Grady E.M.C. officials would have to look into it and make a decision.
Lake Authority consultant Will Butler also attended Monday’s joint meeting and he applauded the efforts of G.G.M.D.C. and said the ultimate goal is to attract visitors to the lake and to Grady County in hopes that they might be interested in moving to the community or investing in local development.
Butler said that an R.V. park at Tired Creek Lake is the type of “low hanging fruit” the county could move forward on and capitalize on its investment. However, Butler acknowledged it would not be cheap to develop an R.V. park and that having sufficient infrastructure in place was key.
Administrator Johnson also encouraged the lake authority to authorize revisions to the lake master plan that was previously approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of the federal 404 permit process.
Butler has expressed interest in having the master plan revised in order to push most of the undisturbed buffer around the lake to the northern end of the lake to open up as much of the property around the “big water” for potential real estate development in the future.
The plan also outlined the number of docks that were contemplated to be built and Butler says the number of docks and how they are configured would be important with regard to future development.
“My goal is to achieve flexibility for you guys,” Butler said.
The authority voted unanimously, with only authority member Stephen Frances absent, to authorize Butler, working in conjunction with attorney Laura Benz, to make the recommended revisions to the lake master plan.
The authority also voted unanimously to recommend to the county commission the feasibility study of the R.V. park to be initiated.
Authority member Eric Cohen said the county would need to explore all possible grant opportunities to finance infrastructure at the lake. “Without water and sewer, the rest of this is just pie in the sky,” Cohen said.
Authority members and county officials discussed at some point a test well may have to be drilled to determine if there is a sufficient supply of water on site and determine the quality of the water. “The cost of a test well is about $50,000. It’s a gamble no doubt. We could pull a test well and it turn out bad,” Johnson said.
Lake Authority Chairman Steven Childs suggested the county contact nurseryman Lee Gainous about the possibility of having his well tested to determine the quality of water in the area near the proposed R.V. park development. Childs said he was aware of issues with arsenic in the water around the county and Johnson said it had been an issue for the City of Cairo, but it was treating for the arsenic in the water at a significant cost.
Johnson said he would be discussing the matter with the county’s consulting engineer, Stacy Watkins, and would also make contact with Gainous, who is a former member and chairman of the lake authority.
The lake authority also voted Monday to host duck hunting once again at Tired Creek Lake, contingent on the approval of Grady County Tax Commissioner Barbara Darus, whose office has been in charge of selling the duck hunting permits.
As for the proposed tourism/marketing board, Johnson said he has held initial discussions with City of Cairo officials. Johnson said once he gets some costs for the funding of the endeavor he would bring those back to the board to decide if it was something the commission was interested in pursuing or not.