As the face lift of the Savannah Rapids Pavilion complex continues, leisure officials are looking for help from residents.
The $800,000 renovation project of the Gatekeeper's Cottage, dance pavilion, dining hall and barbecue pit are about 70 percent complete, Columbia County Community Center Manager Sandy Boner said.
However, paint, nails and landscaping aren't going to be enough to complete the project, she said.
"I want to appeal to the general public to see if they've got any photos, or any stories they would like to tell about being down here as a kid," Boner said. "I want to hear their stories of Savannah Rapids. We want to include all that as part of a display for the Gatekeeper's Cottage."
State officials recently approved the Gatekeeper's Cottage as an official welcome center. The welcome center designation gives Savannah Rapids a state grant of up to $5,000 for the cottage and inclusion in state tourism brochures.
Boner wants to include donated or borrowed memorabilia to decorate the cottage, which also will include a bedroom furnished by the Columbia County Historical Society with antique furniture, a media room to show a historic video of the Augusta Canal, an office and public restrooms.
Although the four buildings are being refurbished and will include many modern amenities, each will have a rustic appeal in keeping with a historic look planned for Savannah Rapids, Boner said.
"We have to make the pavilion look as historical as possible, because that is part of the terms from a DOT grant," she said.
The Georgia Department of Transportation put $749,000 toward the restoration with the county's 1-cent sales tax funds playing for the rest.
Dance-hall renovations include a new floor and roof and the addition of public restrooms below the structure, which is partly supported by stilts. A screen, new picnic tables and running water will be added to the dining hall. The barbecue pit will be cleaned up. All the structures are receiving fresh coats of paint, and the area surrounding them will be newly landscaped.
"The beauty of this outdoor dance pavilion is you can actually use it in conjunction with the main building," Smith said. "You can have a country band on the dance pavilion and a hip-hop band inside the Savannah Rapids Pavilion during one given party or event if you wanted to."
The dining hall will seat about 80 people, and the dance pavilion will hold about 100 people in theater-style seating, Boner said.
All the buildings will be open for public use by June 16, but county leaders will have to wait until Richmond County canal restoration efforts catch up before holding a grand opening.
"The pedestrian bridge, head gates building and the locks restoration will be completed by August," Columbia County Leisure Services Director Barry Smith said. "Those projects are being done in large part by the Augusta Canal Authority. That is the timetable they've given us, and we want to wait until those projects are completed before hold a grand opening."
When finished, the pedestrian bridge will connect both sides of the canal and be constructed next to where Reed Creek empties into the canal. The head gates building will be partly constructed with see-through materials, so passers by can see the mechanics of the locks, and the newest lock, built in 1875, will be fully functional, Boner said.
A three-day grand opening ceremony is tentatively planned for Aug. 12-14.
Future projects at the complex include building walking trails, picnic shelters and adding to parking.
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