It doesn't look like much, but the brick-lined hole in the ground between the Augusta Canal and Savannah Rapids Pavilion means a lot: It's one of the first tangible signs of restoration work in the area.
"I hate to get excited about digging out a pit, but, man, it was really exciting," Columbia County Community Services Director Frank Neal said.
The hole is the old barbecue pit - more than a dozen feet long, an two feet deep - housed under the open-air shed just below the dance pavilion. Recreation department crews excavated the hole recently.
"You'll be able to put a whole pig out here and do an old-time barbecue if you want to," Neal said.
Eventually, plans call for renovation of historic buildings; restoration of locks that allow boat traffic from the river into the canal; and a new bicycle path. Plus, there'll be a new bridge, rerouted road access and shuffling of parking lots - more than $2 million in work. Officials hope large-scale work on the area will begin in six months.
Part of the renovations will focus on the old dance pavilion, a wooden structure overlooking the headgates of the Augusta Canal. Currently, the wooden floor is filled with holes and vines have overtaken part of the base. But once the work is done, Neal envisions a place for picnics, dances, even outdoor meetings.
"We hope we'll be able to sell this with the (meeting space in) the Pavilion," he said.
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