Hall County is one step closer to leasing two Lake Lanier parks from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Assistant County Administrator Marty Nix sent a letter to the corps earlier this week expressing interest in assuming maintenance and operations of Wahoo Creek and Bolding Mill parks.
“The county would like to continue our discussions with the corps and would be open to discussing possible arrangements with the corps,” the letter states. “The county believes that our parks and leisure services have the capacity to address these without any major expense.”
The Corps approached the county about taking over control of these parks as a result of its own budget constraints.
“They’re moving away from the recreation business,” Parks and Leisure Director Mike Little said.
Commissioner Craig Lutz said the county is better suited to operate the parks.
“The county is finally getting into a position where we can assume that kind of additional responsibility,” he said.
But that wasn’t always the case.
Lutz said talk of leasing lakefront parks from the corps has been going on for years.
But the county closed several of its own parks, such as Platt and Murrayville, in recent years to cover budget deficits. These parks remain closed.
Wahoo Creek and Bolding Mill, meanwhile, are prized by county officials because of their access to the lake and other amenities. Each has a boat ramp, for example, and Bolding Mill has a large campground.
Moreover, officials said operational expenses will be manageable. For example, Wahoo Creek has no utilities, and requires county staff just for cutting grass and collecting trash.
Little said it would likely cost between $100,000 and $120,000 annually to operate and maintain both parks.
These costs would be covered by the marina fund, or fees generated from lake marinas, rather than general fund tax dollars.
“We looked at these as bringing in two great assets without having to take on any enormous liability,” Lutz said.
Little said day-use and campground fees would help offset costs, and he said he expects the county to generate between $75,000 and $80,000 in annual revenue from the two parks.
This revenue would be pumped back into the marina fund.
Any lease agreement is likely to entail only a nominal fee paid to the corps, county officials said.
Little said there is no timeline for reaching a lease agreement with the corps, adding the federal agency would have to review the proposal before proceeding.
“We’re in the very preliminary stages of exploring the operation and maintenance of (the parks),” he added.
But the letter sent by the county makes it clear officials desire a takeover of not just Wahoo Creek and Bolding Mill, but perhaps other corps parks.
“The county would also be open to exploring other Corps of Engineers parks and the possibility of maintaining those as well,” the letter states.