Nearing the halfway mark for construction, renovations at Amerson River Park are moving along on pace -- or even a bit early -- for a grand opening next year.
The park has remained closed during renovations as a precautionary measure to allow the contractor to complete the work.
“We are still on schedule to reopen Amerson park in March of ’15,” said Chris Floore, director of public affairs for Macon-Bibb County.
The $5.4 million project broke ground in February, with contractor Georgia Development Partners moving into the park March 3. Since then, a few weeks of heavy spring rain pushed back progress early in the project, but now things are moving ahead of schedule, said Greg Ivey, project manager for Georgia Development Partners.
The project includes 7.5 miles of trails, including 3.15 miles of concrete trail. There will also be new roadways and parking connected to the trails.
As the former site of Macon’s waterworks, there were some challenges with the foundations of buildings that had occupied the site. Several such sites were discovered during construction of the roadbed, Ivey said, including a full building slab that had been covered over by dirt until his crews uncovered it.
“It has been a pretty interesting piece of property to work on,” he said.
The project’s upgrades also include a realigned entrance with a stone gateway. Four cement block columns -- the base of the entrance’s stone gateway -- now overlook the new entrance awaiting their stone facades.
Besides those improvements, there will be restrooms next to the park’s popular playground and two new picnic pavilions along the walkways to a new overlook. Work has also begun on the canoe takeout on the eastern edge of the park, and it is only awaiting lower river levels for construction to begin in earnest. The new feature will be 2.2 miles downstream from the existing canoe put-in site.
One of the most striking features will be an overlook on the western edge of the park, where the new trail will lead to a sculpted overlook. The rounded outcrop will be built around 32 pilings overlooking the bank of the river and feature a fieldstone facing and a rough-sawn timber arbor.
“It’s going to be quite something to look at when we get done,” Ivey said.
He hopes to have much of the work done on the hard-scaped projects by October, then begin the landscaping.
That will be no small task.
“We have 300,000 feet of sod to lay and dozens and dozens of plantings,” Ivey said. “Really, it’s going to be hundreds of plantings.”
The park is at the head of the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, which includes the Ocmulgee National Monument. The Amerson site includes the remnants of a Creek Indian settlement, which may be excavated in the future. Plans for the excavation of that site are on hold until after the completion of the project, said Josh Rogers, executive director of Newtown Macon.
Newtown raised money for the site to match a federal grant for the program and ran the park when it launched. When the renovations are finished, Newtown will turn the park over to Macon-Bibb to maintain.
To contact writer Mark Vanderhoek, call 744-4225.