The Oconee County Citizen Advisory Committee on Recreational Affairs reversed course on Tuesday evening and voted to recommend to the Board of Commissioners that it move forward with a greenway project along the Oconee River at Barnett Shoals.
The Recreational Affairs Committee said the BOC should begin negotiations with two key landowners over easements and use Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenue for securing public access to the property.
Parks and Recreation Department Director John Gentry told the Recreational Affairs Committee that the Oconee County greenway project had the potential to create a recreational pathway that would lead from the Oconee River south of Barnett Shoals Road to Sandy Creek Park on the far north of Athens-Clarke County.
A joint Historic and Scenic Site Subcommittee had recommended the greenway project after reviewing uses of SPLOST money earlier this year, but the Recreational Affairs Committee in July let die without a second a motion to send the project forward to the BOC.
At that meeting in July, Oconee County Tourism Director Peggy Holcomb had challenged the historical value of the properties along the river, but Gentry told the Recreational Affairs Committee on Tuesday that the two properties and those surrounding them had evidence of a variety of settlements of historic value.
|Location Of Project (Click To Enlarge)|
He said there were remnants of a fort and a mill town in the area as well as a functioning dam that is generating electricity. That dam has both historic and educational value, Gentry said.
Some of the sites are in a triangle of land that is part of Oconee County but is east of the Oconee River and borders both Athens-Clarke County and Oglethorpe County.
Other sites are on the western side of the Oconee River south of Barnett Shoals Road.
Not Just Youth Sports
Gentry told the Recreational Affairs Committee that it had been asked by the Board of Commissions to provide advice on recreational affairs.
“Recreational affairs are not just youth sports,” he said. The clip below provides an elaboration on his argument about the broad definition of recreation.
The greenway project offers the county a way to provide recreational opportunities to a broad range of individuals, Gentry said.
One of the two properties of initial concern is owned by James Marshall with a Watkinsville Post Office box address, according to county tax records. That property is just less than 15 acres.
Tax records do not list the owner of the other property, and Gentry said ownership was disbursed among members of a family.
That property runs along the river itself and includes the functioning dam and generator. It consists of about 200 acres, Gentry said.
Gentry told the Recreational Affairs Committee that the property owners have expressed a “willingness to work with the county to preserve the land.”
The meeting on Tuesday took place in the Community Center in Veterans Park.
The full video of that meeting, which lasted a little more than an hour, is below.