In spite of all the attractions that already make Columbia County a great
place to visit and an even better community to live in, it's tempting to
tell our visitors in town this week: Wait 'till next year.
Our community's growth sometimes makes it feel as if the county is bursting
at the seams, even though plenty of other areas in the country make us look
practically lethargic. (We build roughly one new school a year, for example;
Las Vegas builds nearly 20.)
Still, Columbia County, especially to long-time or native residents, has hit
a growth spurt of practically teen-age proportions. Senior Planner Tim
Young, in the county's Planning and Development office, says U.S. Census
estimates expect the county's population to cross the 100,000 threshold
before the 2005 Masters.
So wait till next year. In the meantime, though, visitors to our community
will have much else to see in 2005:
New business: The Owens Road corridor, once a likely route for the
extension of River Watch Parkway, is soon destined to make a transition from
a sleepy two-lane highway to a center of commerce. Rhinehart's Oyster Bar
and a planned Target-anchored shopping center will bookend the road, with a
Surrey Center-type commercial development in between.
Visitors next year also will likely see construction of a shopping center in
the Furys Ferry Road and Evans-to-Locks road intersection, as soon as the
development gets past its opening controversies. Likewise, new retail space
is practically jumping out of the ground in the Columbia-Belair Road area.
New recreation: Visitors to the scenic Savannah Rapids Pavilion may be a
little put off by all the construction going on, but by this time next year
that project will be complete. The renovation of the old caretaker's
cottage, dance pavilion and barbecue pit, in addition to new features at the
Canal Headgates, will provide a much-improved experience for tourists and
locals alike. And by this time next year, the Petersburg boat replicas will
be able to come all the way from Augusta to the headgates.
Our county's biggest recreation attraction, Clarks Hill Lake, also will have
significant improvements ready next year. World-class boat ramps opened last
week at the county's Wildwood Park, and nearby is the site of the world
headquarters of the Disc Golf Association, with three courses in the
planning stages. For more traditional golfers, the Bartram Trail golf course
near Patriots Park also is expected to open by next year.
New public works: While it won't be ready by Masters Week 2005, the
long-awaited Columbia County main library will be in a far more visible
state a year from now. The 50,000-square-foot, $8.5 million project will be
a thing of beauty, and well worth the wait.
Visitors to our community next year will see plenty of new residents, too -
and some of them may be this week's tourists, coming to a new or retirement
home. Welcome to Columbia County; we're already looking forward to next
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