Wildwood Park is becoming Columbia County’s fastest growing attraction.
That’s evident by steady stream of campers that bring revenue through its gates each month. The money stream has been growing every year.
“We’re doing very well at Wildwood,” county Community and Leisure Services Division Director Barry Smith said.
Smith predicts the park will bring in more than $200,000 in revenue this year. That’s up more than $10,000 than it took in in 2011 and about $3,000 more than last year. The countyalocates about $88,000 to operate and staff the park, Smith said.
Smith recommended at a recent Community and Emergency Services Committee meeting that some of that extra money be used to buy surveillance cameras for the gatehouse area. One company quotes $3,000 to buy and install the cameras. County staffers are obtaining more quotes.
“I just feel that cars are going into the park without paying when the gatehouse is not staffed,” Smith said. “I think security cameras will help with that a little bit.”
The gatehouse is staffed during the day, but not usually in the evenings or overnight. Those entering the park during those hours are asked to pay the entry fee on the honor system. “I just feel a lot of people come in that park without paying,” Smith said. “This may encourage them to pay.”
Smith said the cameras also can be used in the occasional instances of thefts from vehicles at the boat ramps or campsites and to monitor for overcrowded campsites, or those disturbing others. It would allow officials to review the tags of vehicles entering and leaving the park.
The cameras also will give officials an idea of measures that need to be taken, such as installing a gate or more gatehouse staffing.
“It’ll just be an indicator,” Smith said.
Smith said he attributes the increasing park usage to to a few recent and upcoming changes. The cost of annual passes was dropped from $75 to $30 about 18 months ago. Smith said an influx of people purchased the passes. Campers can now reserve campsites online.
“It really has increased revenues, just that one convenience,” Smith said.
Park Manager Jamey Rabun said unless temperatures drop, he always sees people using the park. Even then, the diehards always show up.
He expects some park upgrades will draw even more people to the amenities.
The park already offers boat ramps, docks, fishing, hiking and camping, among other activities. The International Disc Golf Center and disc golf courses also are a big attraction, Smith said.
The plan is to steadily increase the attractions.
County officials have already approved the construction of more boat docks and a fish-cleaning station, and Rabun said he’s already scheduled many more fishing tournaments than in years past.
A new playground and restroom renovations are in the works.
“We’re steadily increasing the amenities up there,” Smith said.
“Overall, we’re increasing some of the attractions up there. Revenues are going to go along with that, attracting people up there.”