The Oconee County Citizen Advisory Committee on Recreational Affairs is holding a called meeting at 5 p.m. tomorrow in the Community Center at Veterans Park to reconsider a proposed greenway along the Oconee River near the Barnett Shoals Dam.
In July, the Advisory Committee turned down a recommendation of a joint subcommittee that the county use Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenue to purchase easements on two key properties along both sides of the river that would be the centerpieces of the greenway.
The only other item on the agenda for the meeting tomorrow night is a review of the committee’s rules of governance or bylaws.
Oconee County Tourism Director Peggy Holcomb at the July 21 meeting almost single-handedly nixed the recommendation of the Historic and Scenic Sites Subcommittee that the county fund three projects with SPLOST monies, including the greenway.
Holcomb said that there was inadequate information about the greenway, that the renovation of the old jail was undoable because of security problems at the Courthouse, and that the signs for the greenway were unnecessary because the county is in the process of putting up new signs along its roadways.
Holcomb was particularly adamant in her opposition to the greenway project, which would be a part of a larger plan to preserve historic sites on both sides of the river north of Barnett Shoals Road.
Holcomb, back to camera in the video below, contended that the historic value of the site was not established and incorrectly claimed that the University of Georgia has no printed materials regarding the site.
A lengthy scientific article on what is called the Marshall site appears in the 1997 issue of Early Georgia, a publication of the Society for Georgia Archaeology.
The journal has at least a loose affiliation with the Department of Anthropology at the University of Georgia, where back issues, including the 1997 issue containing the scholarly article on the Marshall site, are stored.
According to the article, the Anthropology Department of Pennsylvania State University was conducting a program of data recovery and student training from 1994 through 1997 at the Oconee County location.
Research interest in the site goes back to at least 1980, according to the article, and artifacts indicated a number of occupations, ranging from Paleo-Indian period to the present day, have been found.
The Paleo-Indian period is from approximately 15,000 B.C. to about 7,000 B.C. That period marks the first colonization of the New World by Homo sapiens.
Support From Subcommittee
At the meeting in July, Russ Page, who has been an advocate for preservation of the site, attempted to provide a detailed overview of this research but was cut off by Holcomb.
Holcomb contended the county needs money for the Eagle Tavern and could turn to the SPLOST revenues for that purpose.
Page had appeared before the subcommittee looking at SPLOST spending for historic preservation in the county in February.
Subcommittee members represented the Keep Oconee County Beautiful Commission, the Recreational Affairs Committee, the Oconee Historical Society, and the Cultural Affairs and Tourism Committee.
Bill Gohdes from the Recreational Affairs Committee made a motion to move forward with the subcommittee recommendation at the July meeting, but it died for lack of a second, though several of those present said they supported the project.
Oconee County Parks and Recreation Director John Gentry told me in a telephone conversation on Oct. 2 that he thought it made sense to focus initially on creating the greenway along the river.
A small part of Oconee County is on the eastern side of the Oconee River at that point, and the county could control and develop a greenway that would preserve land along both sides of the river, he said.
Gentry said the county might need to seek state assistance to preserve the large historical site.
The end product could be a joint county and state facility, he said.