The faded archery targets rest peacefully in the Wildwood Park forest as Charlie Beale walks by.
Beale, Columbia County's recreation manager, points out that the former archery course, which hasn't been used in two years, soon will convert into a disc-golf course - complete with the challenges of boulders, creeks and trees.
"The good thing is we don't have to cut the grass or mow the fairways," Beale said.
Within the next three years, planners hope the 948-acre Wildwood Park will be transformed into a sporting mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. In the near future, the park will be home to three disc-golf courses, eight boat ramps and a pair of horse trails.
"This really fits right into our plan, which is to make use as much as we can out of the park," Beale said. "(Nine-hundred-and-forty-eight) acres and we may be using 30, 40 acres."
Disc golf destination
Wildwood Park soon may be known as the Disc Golf Capital of the World. The National Disc Golf Association will move its headquarters from Toronto to Leah later this year.
When the headquarters are relocated, construction will begin on two disc-golf courses, where the archery range was. Both courses will be in the woods, but one will be a dry course and the other will be fraught with water hazards - Clarks Hill Lake may even come into play on one course.
"Brian (Graham, PDGA regional coordinator and founder of the Augusta Disc Golf Association) had been to Wildwood before for camping, and he said this would be an ideal place," Beale said. "I said, 'Ideal place for what?' He said, 'Disc golf."'
It may be disc-golf heaven for the sport's enthusiasts when it's completed - the two courses are expected to be ready by summer 2004. The headquarters, which will be in the old ranger's house for now, will be moved to the old archery range in 2006. The new building also will house a pro shop, a concession area and a meeting room.
In addition, there will be a putting range and a driving range built outside of the headquarters at the old archery range. A third course is expected to be constructed by 2005 or 2006, Beale said.
When everything is completed, Columbia County will be able to hold national disc-golf tournaments by the summer or fall 2006. One of those weeklong events alone could bring more than $1 million into Columbia County.
"Anything we recruit in, we look at the economic impact on our community, whether it's a baseball tournament, a softball tournament or whatever," Beale said. "This would be one of the largest economic impacts for Columbia County."
The disc golf has become a win-win situation for Columbia County officials. Beale said the courses will cost very little to construct and will need minimum clearing of trees. The poles (golf holes) already have been paid for, and the only real cost may be the concrete tee pads.
"The courses themselves will cost us very little," Beale said.
Banking on boats, bass
If disc golf weren't enough, Columbia County officials also are looking to build six additional boat ramps - the park now has two - and 300 parking spaces.
Beale said he expects the parking lot to be completed by December. He also said he hopes the boat-ramp expansion - now in the bid process - will begin later this summer and be ready by March.
The one-two combination of extra parking and boat ramps is expected to lead to Columbia County holding more national bass-fishing tournaments.
"We've been contacted by the bass groups about holding tournaments up here when we get the ramps and all in," District 3 commissioner Diane Ford said. "I'm sure we'll be attracting them, and anybody else that wants to have a tournament we would certainly support that entity.
"This is a big expansion for Wildwood Park."
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