Stephens County will reach out to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about the county taking over operations of the Stephens County Day Use Area and keep it open.
WNEG News had reported back on November 8 that the Corps of Engineers would close the Stephens County Day Use Area at the Georgia/South Carolina state line on U.S. Highway 123 effective on January 1.
The Corps said the closure was a result of shortfalls in its budget.
This week, numerous area residents expressed concerns about the Corps’ decision to close the facility.
Local resident Brenda Kelley said that park is an important part of StephensCounty’s history and should not be discarded.
“Do most people know that it is the StephensCountyPark? No,” said Kelley. “They know that it is the Broken Bridges. (Closing the area) would cut off all access to it and that it is truly an icon,” said Kelley.
Toccoa City Commissioner-Elect Jeanette Jamieson is also among those wanting the park to remain open, stating that the first image of StephensCounty to people coming in from South Carolina should not be that of a closed park.
Jamieson and others also pointed to the day use area’s economic impact on nearby businesses and the money that would be lost if the park was not kept open.
Stephens County Commissioner Dennis Bell said that the people he has talked to are overwhelmingly in favor of the county taking the park over.
“I have talked to over 700 people at least,” said Bell. “Out of that, I have had only two people in the south side of the county not interested in the county taking this over. The majority does (want us to take it over).”
Stephens County Administrator Phyllis Ayers said she does not have a firm cost estimate for what it would take for the county to operate the park.
However, she said that the county could probably operate it for less money than the Corps of Engineers was able to.
“It might be more than less than half (the cost) for somebody to keep it clean,” said Ayers, who said the county could use prison workers to help maintain the area.
Following discussion, county commissioners unanimously agreed to send the Corps a letter stating the county’s interest in leasing the Stephens County Day Use Area and taking over its operation and maintenance.
Toccoa City Commissioners also pledged their support on Monday at their meeting for the county taking over the operations of the Stephens County Day Use Area.