One of Clarks Hill Lake’s oldest businesses – Little River Marina and Family Resort in Columbia County – could change hands as early as next year, according to the Army Corps of Engineers, which opted not to renew the operator’s lease.
The 129-acre site, with docks, boat storage, cabins and other amenities, has been operated by Pam Bugg and her family since 1986. It is one of six commercial marinas at the lake authorized by the corps when the project was designed in the 1940s.
Bugg, who also has the business up for sale, has been notified that her lease, which expires Dec. 27, will not be renewed, said Scott Hyatt, the lake’s operations project manager.
“In this case the corps has not been satisfied with the current business and we want to exercise our right to go out and find an operator who would better meet the demands of the public in the area,” he said.
Bugg said she disagrees with the corps’ decision and has always complied with everything that was asked of her.
“I was told I was in compliance and there is nothing I had not done, and that they just want something newer, bigger and better,” she said. “This is Columbia County and it’s growing and they just want something with bigger money behind it.”
The marina, she said, has always made efforts to cater to all segments of the community.
“We’ve held fireworks displays, weddings, retreats and seminars, and I’m all about families,” she said. “I’ve put my heart and soul – and every bit of money I’ve ever had – and now I’m being forced to walk away.”
Corps officials say the business will close when the lease expires and a notice of availability will be issued in early January to encourage potential operators to submit proposals.
The goal will be to identify a new operator by spring.
“We’d be looking for an operation focused on marina based services, boat storage, repair, fuel and gas docks,” Hyatt said. “If there are other aspects they want to look at, such as cabins or a restaurant, we’ll continue to look on that favorably.”
There is no way to predict when the area could reopen, he said.
“When the economy weakens, the boating industry is the one of the first to go and one of the last to come back,” he said. “The marina business is just as tough. It’s been a challenge to keep these kinds of businesses open.”
According to a marina brokerage Web site, MarinasForSale.com in Falmouth, Mass., the business is for sale and the asking price has been reduced to $1 million.
Other marinas at the lake are Rayesville, Tradewinds, Plum Branch Yacht Club, Savannah Lakes Village and Soap Creek. All are on corps lands leased to the marina operators.