Hall County Board of Commissioners voted Thursday night to execute a cooperative agreement with the Corps of Engineers to manage Bolding Mill, Duckett Mill and Old Federal Campgrounds.
Approximately a year ago, officials with the county and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began working on a deal that would remedy issues the Corps was having in managing campgrounds in the region, according to Hall County Director of Parks and Community Services Brent Holloway.
“Over the course of a year, and many, many hours of meetings [we] have sort of come to this agreement, that we feel is going to be a better way of operating certainly for us, we're happy to be taking this on and keeping these parks up and available and open to our citizens and visitors as well,” Holloway said in a phone interview.
While other parks are still in talks of being taken over by neighboring counties, such as in Forsyth and Dawson, Hall County will assist in managing Bolding Mill, Duckett Mill and Old Federal Campgrounds, pending final approval from the federal government.
“We wanted to be very conservative with our estimates,” Holloway said. “And so what we did was take the three-year average from the Corps of Engineers revenue figures from … 2019 through 2021. So that gives us a little bit of before COVID, and a little bit after because that certainly had an effect.”
Holding those revenue figures steady for predictions across a five-year span, the county anticipates a gross revenue of more than $860,000, which was the average figure seen by the Corps between 2019 to 2021 for all three campgrounds.
Previously, revenues produced by the parks under Corps management were sent directly to the U.S. Treasury, which made it so funding for the parks has remained stagnant.
“We're still receiving tons of traffic to these campgrounds,” Corps Public Affairs Specialist Travis England said. “Max occupancies at most of them as well. And so basically, the funding isn't there to maintain or improve them.”
Partnering with Hall County will allow a larger portion of the revenue to stay in the county, making it possible for bigger improvements to be seen down the road.
Once Hall County takes the reins on the parks, they plan to add one full-time maintenance worker at each location, as well as a staff of customer service associates that will reportedly fall under the umbrella of River Forks Park, the Ag Center and other similar community centers, Holloway said.
At each of the campgrounds, Hall County will take over the day-to-day operational tasks, such as custodial duties, grass mowing, landscape maintenance, reservation management and customer care.
The Corps will continue with the projects they have already begun, and retain the tasks of building maintenance, plumbing, electrical, beach maintenance, erosion control, road upkeep and parking lot and boat ramp maintenance, according to Holloway.
“We've been very appreciative of how willing to work with us the Corps of Engineers has been, they've been a great partner in this,” Holloway said. “I really couldn't say enough good things about that partnership and how willing to meet us halfway they have been.”
Hall County will take over the process of online reservations for the campgrounds, which will be available on their website, hallcounty.org/parks. That portal is set to be open for customers by Jan. 1, but Holloway noted the county hopes to have it available even sooner, if possible.
The initial term of the agreement between Hall County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will last five years. Holloway anticipates the agreement should go smoothly, but both parties have built in the ability to terminate the agreement if things do not go according to plan.
The Hall County Board of Commissioners voted in approval of the agreement as part of their Consent Agenda Thursday night.