The park county officials commonly refer to as a "diamond in the rough" is becoming more valuable, officials say.
Wildwood Park on Thurmond Lake in Appling turned in a record profit during the 2006 fiscal year, Columbia County Recreation Manager Charlie Beale said.
During the past fiscal year, from July 2006 to June 2007, the park recorded $166,863 in revenue, which is about $14,000 more than the previous fiscal year. Beale said much of the 9.5 percent increase in revenue can be attributed to bass fishing and archery tournaments held at the park this spring.
Much of the profit comes from gate receipts from one weekend in April, said Beda Johnson, the executive director of the county's convention and visitors bureau.
Over the course of four days, the county played host to the nationally televised 2007 Bassmaster Elite Pride of Georgia tournament and a tournament at the International Disc Golf Center.
"That tournament alone helped bring in three-quarters of (the park's) surplus for the year," she said of the fishing event.
Approximately 7,200 people visited the park that weekend, Johnson said. Another big draw to the park included the 1,040 people who attended the April Easton-Augusta Archery Shooters Association Pro/Am Tour event.
Wildwood Park also played host to a Skeeter Boats owner's fishing tournament in September and is scheduled for a Bassmaster's Weekend Series national championship in November.
Johnson called the park "pristine," an attribute that she says draws people back.
"The county realizes what a gem they have up there," she said.
County commissioners recently accepted a new master plan for Wildwood Park, which includes a lodge, upgraded beaches and other amenities. There is no set timetable for construction, but Johnson said the upgrades will make the park even more marketable in the future.
"It's not even going to be sales anymore, we'll just be taking orders" from visitors, she said. "We've been doing just great things, but we're on the cusp of greatness with the master plan changes."
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