The plans to build a host site for national fishing tournaments on the banks of Thurmond Lake are drawing praise from some and concern from others.
This artist's rendering shows how the proposed fishing site would occupy a portion of Wildwood Park near the Keg Creek community.
But both sides agree that the $1 million facility planned for Wildwood Park is needed. The main sticking point is the location.
"This is such a narrow way right here," said Don Rogers, pointing to the area between the tip of Wildwood and the tip of the Keg Creek community on a map detailing the plans. "This is a tremendous bottleneck."
Residents, fishermen and county officials met last week to talk about the plans. The residents - and some fishermen - say the location of the boat ramps requires boaters to backtrack through the bottleneck to reach open water.
"Have y'all come up here any time during the weekend and seen all the jet ski and boat traffic?" asked Keg Creek resident Inez Wylds.
Planners say the location of the ramp - in a cove on the northern tip of the park - is perfect: It protects fishermen from wind, provides easy access to planned parking, a pavilion and utilities and makes the most fiscal sense.
"There's a long list of reasons," said Columbia County Community Services Director Frank Neal, adding the location fits in with the county's master plan for Wildwood.
Keg Creek resident Roy Giles said he understands the reasons for the location, but that doesn't means it is the best.
"We are 100 percent behind the boat ramp," he said. "We just think there is an alternate location, a better location."
Fisherman David Smith of the Columbia County River Rats bass fishing club said the location of the ramps should be flexible.
"If they'll sand the beaches so we don't have to pull up in red clay, we don't care where it is," he said.
The divergent opinions are one of the reasons for last week's meeting, said Columbia County Construction and Maintenance Director Kevin Lear.
"The location is not set in stone," he said. "That's why we are taking comments tonight."
Officials hope the final product - which will include multiple boat ramps, parking for 250 to 300 vehicles and trailers, an open-air weigh-in and awards pavilion and rental cabins that are available year-round - will lure tourism dollars to the county through fishing tournaments.
Danny Davis - regional vice president for the Angler's Choice tournament series - said the project is something his group has been waiting for.
"Y'all have such a great fishing area here," he said. "But unfortunately you don't have the facility to take advantages of the big events."
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