Mother Nature delaying Tobesofkee disaster repairs

Lake Tobesofkee parks can’t get a break from Mother Nature.

The Mother’s Day storm nearly two years ago toppled trees and shattered buildings, setting the stage for long-needed upgrades at the lake’s major county-owned parks. But storm damage lingers, and months of rain have delayed efforts to get the parks in the right shape for a new season.

Lake Tobesofkee Director Doug Furney said county crews hope to install new picnic tables and grills for campers at Claystone Park before it fills up with people coming for the Cherry Blossom Festival. Weather isn’t helping.

“We’ve been trying to do this for two months, and the rain has just killed us every week,” Furney said.

Claystone’s camping areas also need to get stabilized. The focus after that would be at Sandy Beach Park, where the storm felled trees above a pavilion. Erosion on the steep hill has made rainwater flow through the pavilion.

But some work has been completed. Since Lake Arrowhead’s camping area was rebuilt last year, more work has gone into Claystone’s camping grounds. One of two drainage problems at Claystone’s beaches has been fixed. And the popular Claystone pavilion has been completely remodeled, with about $60,000 worth of work, including reworked bathrooms, Furney said.

Far down the priority list is the Lake Arrowhead store, which may not be structurally sound. Bibb County commissioners decided this week to have an engineer evaluate the building.

Meanwhile, another group is hoping to mix grant money with volunteer labor to build about 10 miles of multiuse trails inside Arrowhead Park.

About six miles were destroyed by the tornadoes and the ensuing park cleanup, said Jake Corwine, president of the Ocmulgee Mountain Bike Association. The trails would be multiuse, catering to mountain bikers, joggers and hikers.

The group used an earlier $20,000 grant to buy a piece of heavy equipment to help cut and clear the trails. The group now has conditional, but not final, approval for a $91,500 state grant, which would hire a professional to lay out and help create the trails. Volunteer labor would remove trees and perform some of the finishing touches, Corwine said.

Elsewhere in the parks, fallen timber will be a problem for years. Furney said the areas most used by the public are clear, but plenty of fallen trees remain in tough to reach valleys. Clearing those areas will be difficult and expensive, he said.

Separately, the county plans to add signs at its boat ramps telling people to wear life jackets. Two boaters died this month after entering Lake Tobesofkee in a boat with life jackets that were inaccessible even under the best conditions, Furney said. The boat may have been overloaded with a generator, an overly large motor and plenty of other equipment, he said. “Once they got into the water, they didn’t have a chance,” Furney told commissioners.

County commissioners are cutting $166,666 from the Lake Tobesofkee enterprise fund in this year’s budget, a third of the $500,000 the county planned to spend to subsidize lake operations. Furney said the cuts don’t affect his budget and won’t have any effect on his operations. But he said further improvements would take money from a special purpose local option sales tax, which could be voted on in July.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.