ELLIJAY, Ga. – Continuing the conversation about the county’s future with Carters Lake, the Gilmer Board of Commissioners hosted a representative from ACCG (Association of County Commissioners in Georgia) to speak on other counties involved in the process of taking control and responsibility for lakeside recreation areas from the Corps of Engineers.
Mike O’Quinn, the ACCG’s County Consulting Services Associate in the areas of County Law, Negotiations, and Inter and Intra Governmental Relations, offered two other counties going through similar situations.
“For better or worse, the Corps seems to be getting out of the recreation business,” said O’Quinn as he was speaking on the topic of Gilmer taking over these areas. He offered a point of reassurance saying that ig Gilmer does move forward with taking over the areas, they would not be alone in these operations.
McDuffy county took over Raysville Campground from the Corps of Engineers nearly three years ago. It had been closed previously, whereas Gilmer County is looking to intervene before permanent closure. O’Quinn said that now McDuffy is looking at taking over a second campground. A county smaller than Gilmer in population, says O’Quinn.
Bartow County also took over a previously closed campground Clark Creek on Lake Allatoona. A larger county in population than Gilmer, they, too, are looking at taking over a second campground.
O’Quinn told Gilmer’s Commissioner that both of these operations have been successful in their operations of the areas as they have used county employees for operations and maintenance instead of contracted services.
O’Quinn went on to say that he has camped and visited these sites as well as Doll Mountain in Gilmer and other Corps owned sites. He added that he hasn’t noticed any differences in operations controlled by the county and those controlled by the Corps.
However, both of these counties noted have gone with full lease options for their sites. Chairman Paris and Post Commissioner Ferguson have tentatively agreed in previous meetings that they will be looking to pursue cooperative management options with Carters Lake instead of a lease. However, no official resolution has been made as they both continue to investigate the issues.
The topic has picked up in public response and attention as numerous citizens on both sides of the debate weigh in. Many have already spoken in favor of the take-over including Angela Mays who spoke about the handicap access and the ease of getting her family out to the locations. She noted how she has run into boy scouts and groups using the trails as well as low-income families who use the recreation areas, trails, beach, and other facilities as a major recreation source for their families at lower costs.
Additionally, Larry Alonso defended Carters Lake and its access as a major resource in teaching and furthering exercise in people both young and old.
On the other side, many citizens have taken to social media to voice opposing opinions including Kathy Collins who said “The Army Corps is loosing money trying to maintain them. That’s why they’re trying to pawn them off on us.”
Additionally, Sukochi Ward Lee voiced concerns of increasing costs if fees do not cover the costs that could result in increased taxes down the road.
Many others have compared the campgrounds to the County Golf Course saying that it will become another financial drain on the county to maintain. While some counter that the golf course is very nearly revenue neutral, others point to it taking nearly two decades to even get close to the point it is now.
As the county awaits the state verification of election results and the arrival of its newly elected third member, Hubert Parker according to unofficial results, the discussion is continuing towards a resolution. The county could make a decision as early as next week during its November Meetings (Work Session: November 13. 2019, at 9 a.m.. Regular Meeting: November 14, 2019, at 6 p.m.) In fact, the advertised agenda has the item listed for discussion and possible action. But this item has been listed for several months and tabled as discussion continues.