POLLARDS CORNER - After a year of construction, a long-awaited, six-lane bass tournament facility at Wildwood Park was dedicated April 2 in hopes of luring new anglers - and their dollars - to Columbia County.
The project, with three large docks and parking for up to 265 boats and trailers, was financed penny by penny from the county's special purpose local-option sales tax, said County Board of Commissioners Chairman Ron Cross.
"Fishing's a phenomenon to me," he said. "You fish sitting still, but you need a $25,000 boat that can go 100 miles an hour to get to your favorite spot, and we appreciate all that sales tax!"
The ramp, to be supplemented with an open-air pavilion scheduled for completion in June, cost $1,188,620 but also will bring untold economic benefits to the area.
For example, even as county officials dedicated the new site Friday, anglers already on hand for a fishing tournament nearly filled the parking lot. Many visitors were from outside Columbia County, said Recreation Manager Charlie Beale.
"I counted license tags and saw two from McDuffie, 29 from Columbia County, 15 from Richmond, 11 from Lincoln County and 19 more from South Carolina," he said. Others bore license plates from Illinois and Alabama.
In addition to daily use by visitors who will pay revenues and launch fees to help operate Wildwood Park, anglers drawn to large tournaments will contribute to the regional economy.
Tom Lewis, park operations manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, said surveys show anglers spend an average of $170 per day on lodging, fuel, meals, bait and other incidentals - and $2,700 per year on large items such as boats.
A lot of that money will soon be spent in or near Columbia County, he said, adding that the recreation site also should increase interest in fishing.
"My dad used to say, when you feel stress coming on, go fishing," Mr. Lewis said. "Well, I see a lot of stress reduction here today."
The tournament site was designed by Zimmerman, Evans & Leopold engineers and built by Blair Construction. New equestrian trails recently opened at Wildwood, and other plans for the park include the opening of the world headquarters of the Disc Golf Association and construction of three tournament-quality disc golf courses.
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