Can Radium Springs be Revitalized? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Can Radium Springs be Revitalized?

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August 14, 2006

Dougherty County - One of Georgia's seven natural wonders, now off limits to the public, could soon get new life. There are plans to revitalize and reopen Radium Springs. The area was fenced off nearly three years ago after the flood-damaged casino was torn down.

In its heydey, Radium Springs attracted visitors from around the country. Dougherty County Commissioners want the springs back open and there's a plan underway that could get things rolling within the next few months.

Beautiful weddings, swimming in the cool springs, and walking along the river, all things that used to take place when Radium Springs was open to the public, and are all things that will hopefully take place here once again. "We feel like, with simple themed landscape planting, and restoration of the stonework, some clever fencing, we can make it just a beautiful place again for everyone," says engineer Ron Huffman.

On Monday, Dougherty County commissioners took a look at the master plan for this area, which includes a visitor's center, an events area for weddings and special occasions, and acres of gardens, even a secret garden.  Huffman says, "The focus was actually to do something to get the springs ready to open to the public, as a public park."

Most of what will fill this space will incorporate remains from the Casino, including the entrance gate, an abandoned gazebo and an old footbridge. Huffman says, "The key is restoring what's there, because it's wonderful the way it is, and just making it safe, replacing broken pieces and enhancing it with landscape planting."

But is restoring the beauty enough to attract visitors? Commissioner John Hayes says the plan looks good, but isn't sure if it will work.   He says, "We need something that will draw and appeal to a diversity of people. If I'm driving up 300 I want a reason to stop off or to take the detour down to Radium Springs to see what that park has to offer."

He wants to look at activities like diving, swimming and canoeing, and get the word out about what Radium Springs has to offer.  Hayes says, "There has to be something that we're able to actually market about this that will appeal to the masses."

The state actually owns the Springs and may limit swimming and diving activities to just four times a season. About $2 Million dollars in SPLOST money will be used to pay for the reconstruction of Radium Springs. Phase one could get underway by next spring, and would take about six months to complete.

Once phase one is finished, the park would then be open to the public. A final plan should be presented to commissioners in about two weeks.

The county is also considering a plan to buy more land near Radium Springs. The County may purchase 55 acres that currently belong to Darrell Ealum, owner of the Radium Springs Country Club.

The Greenspace committee could buy the undeveloped golf course property South of radium springs park for $150,000. "This has wonderful River Frontage, it's in the flood plain so it's not suitable for development, but will be protected so that the river corridor will be protected," says Elizabeth Dean, Planning Director.

The planning committee is also considering extending plans to protect the corridor all the way to the Mitchell County line.

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