GAINESVILLE — U.S. Rep. Doug Collins is trying to get the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to respond to a legal issue involving Bolding Mill Park on Lake Lanier.
Corps officials said in the fall that the agency was trying to determine how a provision in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in June, applies to talks between the corps and Hall County over a possible park lease.
The park is in northwestern Hall, near where it meets Forsyth and Dawson counties.
“Despite my inquiry more than 120 days ago, I understand that corps personnel at Lake Lanier have yet to hear anything in the way of interpretation,” Collins said in a Feb. 18 letter to Col. Jon J. Chytka, Mobile (Ala.) District commander.
The Mobile District governs federal projects in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin, including Lake Lanier.
“Until there is an interpretation of that language by Mobile command, the negotiation process is [at] a standstill,” said Collins, a Gainesville Republican whose 9thDistrict includes north Forsyth. “As such, I respectfully request that you provide an update to both my office and the officials at Lake Lanier on the status of the interpretation.
“Additionally, I again ask that you make this interpretation a priority.”
In responding to a question last week from The Times of Gainesville about the issue, Pat Robbins, spokesman at the corps’ Mobile, Ala., District, simply said, “No update yet.”
Two issues are at stake: Hall’s interest in leasing the park and the corps’ considering a marina at the park at 4055 Chestatee Road near Cool Springs Road.
The corps announced in February 2014 it would send out a formal “request for proposals” for the marina, in part to “satisfy the portion of the master plan that calls for fuel services” on the Chestatee River arm of the lake, corps spokeswoman Lisa Parker has said.
Corps officials also have said the marina could increase visitation to the campground.
But the plans drew immediate fire, including from Friends of Bolding Mill, a private group that lined Chestatee Road with green “Save the Chestatee” signs.
David Day, one of the leading opponents, later said he talked with more than 100 campers and “they all tell me the same thing, without exception, and that is if a marina goes out there, they won’t come back.”
Collins also joined the fray, saying in his Sept. 29 letter to Chytka, “With other marinas’ operation below full capacity, an additional marina is not viable in that location.”
And last year, Hall told the corps it would like to take over maintenance and operations of Bolding Mill, as well as Wahoo Creek Park.
Parks and Leisure Director Mike Little has said it would likely cost between $100,000 and $120,000 annually to operate and maintain both parks.
“We have a great relationship with the corps,” said Richard Mecum, chairman of the Hall County commission, in an interview last week. “We’ve been running corps parks now for 35-40 years and we want to maintain that relationship.”
If a Bolding Mill agreement is worked out, “we would take [the park] over and continue to operate it as it is being operated right now,” Mecum said. “And we would maintain the park. The big thing is we’d receive funds for operating the park, particularly the campground.
“I think there’s a question there as to verbage of some sort ... where we [accept] funds, but that’s puzzling to me because we are already doing that at River Forks [Park in West Hall].”
Hall is ready to move on operating the park once the corps gives its green light, Mecum said.
Collins said in his Feb. 18 letter the federal water law includes wording that allows the corps to enter into “cooperative agreements with state or local governments to provide recreational opportunities” at reservoirs next to state or local parks.
The language indicates such an agreement could be worked out between the corps and Hall, he added.
And that is something Collins supports.
The agreement “will enable Hall County to provide the best care of the campground,” he said. “This will continue to make the Bolding Mill campground a beautiful and useful Hall County attraction.”