By MJ Kneiser, WLHR Radio, Lavonia
The Hartwell City Council has voted to take over the lease of Hart State Park from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Hartwell City Manager David Aldrich said the first move for the City is to secure the lease from the State of Georgia.
But Aldrich said once that lease is in the hands of the City of Hartwell, city fathers will then begin searching for an outside company to rebuild and run the park.
“The City is not looking to get into the parks and recreation business or lease or operate it,” Aldrich said. “What the City is looking to do is to find an outside company to go in and sublease the park and develop it and operate the park.”
Hart State Park is one of several Corps-operated parks in Hart and surrounding counties that has either drastically cut back on services and amenities or plans to close altogether.
Two years ago, the Corps closed the cabins at Hart State Park and also closed the park store, due to a lack of federal funding.
Aldrich said it is hoped that whichever developer is hired, they will go in and make enough improvements to bring the park back to life and that could mean not keeping it as just a park.
“We do need to find the right developer, the right fit for that,” Aldrich said. “Its 147 acres of prime real estate on the lake so we need to find someone who can go in there and commercially develop that either as a park or convention area or something. So we think there is a lot of opportunity there and we’re going to be exploring that.”
Aldrich did not have a timeline for when Hartwell is expected to get the lease from the Corps or pay off the State’s debt.
Meantime, Hart County Commissioners are also considering taking over two other Corps-operated parks in the county, Long Point and Milltown, which the Corps announced last November it intends to close.