Artesian Alliance embarking on new master plan
ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - The Artesian Alliance, which makes up Chehaw, Thronateeska and Flint Riverquarium, is asking Dougherty County for a little more than $4 million to make updates. This is part of a $35-50 million master plan.
Coordinators of the parks are hoping that the master plan will be implemented over the next 5-10 years. Its focus is expanding and updating many of the amenities.
Starting at the Flint Riverquarium, they want to expand their current river aquarium, which is now nearly 18-years-old. They’re also wanting to open new exhibits.
Artesian Alliance Executive Director Tommy Gregors said some of the new animals they’re looking at are sharks, stingrays and other larger fish.
″The challenge any museum faces is that repeatability. You don’t want to come to see the same fish. You want to see something new so this would be constant growth and improvement,” said Gregors.
Over at Chehaw, they’re looking to improve their campgrounds, play park, and adding new exhibits to the zoo. Gregors said they’re also considering adding a zip line. Another area of focus is the bike trail.
“One of the complaints we’ve gotten is the trailheads are not well defined or marked and some people have trouble finding them,” said Gregors.
He said they’re planning to improve the trails because of the popularity and a reason many people travel to Albany.
At Thronateeska, Gregors said they’re hoping to rehabilitate the Union Station.
“Make it a gateway to our local history and culture and our people of our area,” said Gregors.
The main goal of these changes is to bring more visitors into Albany and Dougherty County. Ultimately, benefitting the people who live in this area.
“All of what we do need to benefit the residents economically. These tourists that come need to benefit our residents. Our residents are who we’re going to put to work servicing these tourists,” said Gregors.
Coordinators of this master plan are hoping these updates bring more people into their parks and specifically, people from out of town.
″What we don’t have is tourists coming to our community as a destination. These are folks that are from more than three hours away. Our three institutions saw almost 150,000 people in 2021 and that’s after COVID. That’s the COVID recovery numbers,” said Gregors.
Some 97,000 people went to Chehaw, 41,000 went to the Riverquarium and 10,000 went to Thronateeska.
Gregors said most of that traffic was Dougherty County residents.
“If we can bring 500 new people to Albany on a weekend, that’s 10 restaurants to have to seat 50 people. That’s 200 more hotel rooms that folks are buying and spending money here,” said Gregors.
County Commissioner Gloria Gaines said these numbers help government affairs measure how successful parks are.
“That guides our decision. That guides our investment decisions. That lets us know how well we’re doing in terms of quality of life,” said Gaines.
Explaining that helps them understand what kind of return the county would be getting on an investment.
Gregors said he thinks this master plan will be an economic development tool.
The county will make a decision on this issue around November when SPLOST 8 is being discussed.
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