One of Columbia County’s most popular recreation areas has a new leader.
Jamey Rabun took over as manager of Wildwood Park on Sept. 2.
“I guess Jamey’s experience stood out above and beyond,” county Recreation Department Manager John Luton said, adding that Rabun was selected from nearly 50 applicants. “We were looking for somebody that can wear several different hats. Managing a campground park is very different than soliciting and running fishing tournaments.”
Rabun brings a bachelor’s degree in management and marketing and a masters in natural resources, as well as more than six years experience working for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources at several state parks, including Elijah Clark, Watson Mill Bridge and Panola Mountain. He replaces Jeb Bell, who was manager of the park for several years.
“He’s just a perfect fit and we’re glad to have him,” county Community and Leisure Services Division Director Barry Smith said.
The 975-acre park boasts 61 campsites, six-lane boat ramps, the International Disc Golf Center and Hall of Fame, three championship disc golf courses, beach and picnic areas, covered pavilions, restroom and shower facilities, horse, hiking and bicycle trails, Bartram Trail and, of course, frontage on Clarks Hill Lake.
So, Rabun has a lot of amenities to market.
Despite regular use by campers and fishermen, Rabun hopes to spread the word that Wildwood Park is a recreation mecca with a lot of options and he wants to attract first-timers to the park.
“There’s more to do than camp and fish,” Rabun said. “Right now, we have a lot of repeat use. We’re looking to expand that to try to draw in a bigger market. It is a very nice facility and it is well-kept. Right now, people come out here to camp and use the lake. We want to expand on that and try to have a different type of visitor.”
Rabun grew up in Wrens, Ga., and graduated from Augusta Preparatory Day School. So coming to Columbia County is as close to home as any job has brought him. He also is an adjunct professor at Berry College, where he received his undergraduate degree, and he also teaches Adventure Challenge classes that include high- and low-ropes courses and other team-building activities.
He’s always enjoyed hiking, camping and paddling, and said he wants to share what he enjoys with others.
“I’m passionate toward getting people into outdoor recreation that they have not experienced before,” Rabun said. “I like drawing in the first-timers and providing people a place to recreate.”
Rabun, who has experience hosting large events, said he also hopes to draw more people and more events to the park and hopes to expand the scope of those events beyond fishing.
In college, Rabun said he always knew he didn’t want to spend his days behind a desk in an office. He spent his first week on the job meeting lots of employees, getting settled in and learning his way around the park.
Rabun takes his job seriously in more ways than one.
“You have to manage the resource and allow people to use it, all the while protecting it and not letting it become run down and keep it in some kind of natural state,” Rabun said.
He’s got some busy time ahead overseeing park improvements. Rabun said plans already approved and funded include adding a new playground, building a T-shaped dock, replacing a restroom facility and renovating campsites.
“It is going to be an interesting first year,” Rabun said. “I’m excited about it.”