Stephens Co. Day Use Area To Remain Open Pending Lease Agreement

As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Stephens County continue hammering out a final lease agreement for the Stephens County Day Use Area, the park will remain open into 2014.

The Corps said it will not close the park, located at the Georgia-South Carolina state line off Highway 123, on January 1 as it originally planned.

Corps Spokesperson Sandra Hudson said that everything will remain as it has been until that lease agreement is finalized.

“As you know, the Corps has received a request from the county to enter into a real estate agreement to operate the Stephens County Day Use Area and in order to benefit our visitors, the Corps has decided to keep the day use area open until working out final details of a proposed real estate agreement,” said Hudson.

Hudson said there is no timeline yet for having that final agreement in place.

Earlier this month, Stephens County Commissioners unanimously voted to instruct staff to contact the Corps about leasing the Stephens County Day Use Area and having the county take over operations and maintenance of the facility.

This came after the Corps announced in November that it had planned to close the park effective on January 1.

The Corps said its original decision came as a result of shortfalls in its budget.

Following the announcement, numerous area residents expressed concerns about the Corps’ decision to close the facility.

Local residents said the park, which includes the “Broken Bridges,” is an important part of the county’s history.

They added that the first image of Stephens County to people coming in from South Carolina should not be that of a closed park, while others also pointed to the day use area’s economic impact on nearby businesses.

Stephens County Administrator Phyllis Ayers said earlier this month she did not have a firm cost estimate for what it would take for the county to operate the park.

However, she said that the county could probably operate it for less money than the Corps of Engineers was able to.