County responds to City’s concerns about East Bay Park
Georgetown City Council has until the end of October to decide whether to allow Georgetown County to continue to manage East Bay Park or to terminate the lease that expires January 1.
As previously reported, most city council members say they are not happy with what they consider to be the lack of attention East Bay Park is receiving while multi-million-dollar parks are being built elsewhere in the county.
Because the city does not have a recreation department, an agreement was reached years ago to lease the 23-acre East Bay Park to the county for recreational purposes.
During an April 30 workshop, some council members said they do not want to renew the contract when it expires. They continued the discussion at a workshop last week.
Councilman Brendon Barber said he feels the county has been giving the city “the run-around like a used car salesman” when it comes to maintaining and improving the park.
“We need to pick up the tab,” Barber said.
Councilman Rudolph Bradley said he has no problem continuing dialogue with the county about the park but feels the county will “continue to Jethro Bodine East Bay Park,” referring to the Beverly Hillbillies character.
Barber said if the contract with the county is renewed, he wants the city to erect a sign stating “this park is managed by the County of Georgetown.”
Georgetown County Administrator Sel Hemingway — in a letter to the editor to be published in its entirety in Friday’s Georgetown Times — says he was surprised when he read what some city council members were saying about East Bay Park because he feels the city and county have a good working relationship.
“The county has been completely willing to allow the city to guide the direction of development and activities at the park, which is demonstrated by the projects currently planned for the park in the county’s Capital Improvement Plan,” Hemingway wrote. “Those projects were dictated several years ago by city officials, who wanted the park to be reserved for passive recreational activities and open space. Additionally, the county has demonstrated a willingness to alter plans for the park as opinions shifted over the years.”
Hemingway said the city and county started talking about the future of East Bay Park in the summer of 2007 when the Capital Improvements Plan was in the creative stages.
At that time the city was working with a consultant, Ken Simmons, and a task force to put together a master plan for Morgan Park.
Ernie Nance was chairman of the task force, while Brendon Barber was a member of the task force.
Hemingway said before the Capital Improvements Plan was approved by County Council, talks were held with former Mayor Lynn Wood Wilson and former City Administrator Steve Thomas.
“We wanted to do whatever the city wanted to do, but we needed to figure out where we were going to place the components for our regional parks. I was told in no uncertain terms that the focus for the East Bay area was to be on Morgan Park. City officials wanted East Bay to be a passive recreation destination for walking, fishing and those types of activities,” Hemingway wrote. “We had no problem with that and were happy to participate in providing the “passive element,” so off we went.”
Hemingway said the only requests for the park that have been made by the city are for a dog park, more shade around the playground areas, new tennis courts and making the road around the park one-way for traffic.
The courts are currently scheduled to be constructed in 2017.
“The county has always been clear in its position that it is willing to provide recreational opportunities at East Bay Park for residents of the city and all areas of the county, and that it is willing to allow the city to guide the direction of those opportunities. That has not changed,” Hemingway wrote, adding the county has never expressed a desire to end the lease agreement.
“Additionally, it should be noted that East Bay Park receives a considerable level of use in its current state,” stated Hemingway. “The County’s current Capital Improvement Plan contains projects totaling more than $22 million to serve the residents of the City of Georgetown and the surrounding areas.”
Hemingway said the county will continue to provide recreational opportunities to City residents regardless of what happens with the lease agreement for East Bay Park.
By Scott Harper
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