Amerson River Park opening date set, but Sandy Beach Water Park delayed

The end of May was supposed to be a prime time for outdoor enthusiasts in Bibb County with the opening of parks on the Ocmulgee River and Lake Tobesofkee.

But only the Amerson River Park -- a part of the Ocmulgee River trail -- is opening this month after all.

Amerson River Park is set to reopen May 30, while the first day of the Sandy Beach Water Park is uncertain.

The park at Sandy Beach at Lake Tobesofkee had been projected to open by Memorial Day, which is May 25, but that estimate was pushed back to the following weekend. Now the park’s owner, Jeff Franklin, president of Spirit of America Theme Park and Development LLC, says he isn’t sure when it will open.

Franklin declined to even hazard a guess, but he said he expects an opening date to be announced soon for the park that originally was to be named Lost Island Water Park. He said construction is progressing, but he did not discuss any reasons for the delay other than rainy weather earlier this year.

“We are in high gear,” Franklin said. “Water and sewer is going in. It’s all happening as fast as it can.”

The Sandy Beach park will include a lazy river, children’s splash pool, water slides and a wave pool, all under the watchful eye of trained lifeguards, company officials have said.

At Amerson River Park, work is ongoing in preparation for opening the last Saturday of the month.

This year, Macon-Bibb County officials had estimated Amerson River Park could open by May 1. Macon-Bibb spokesman Chris Floore said rainy weather delayed it some, but he said the opening is on track with the original estimate given when the park closed in April 2014. At the time officials said the project would take a little more than a year.

Floore said it will be worth the wait.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” he said. “It was gorgeous before, but now it’s going to draw from a much larger region.”

There are long-range plans to keep improving it for years to come.

Amerson River Park is a 166-acre track in a bend of the Ocmulgee River that had once been the location of a water treatment plant. It has undergone $5.5 million in renovations and improvements, with $4.5 million paid with a federal grant and $1 million match from NewTown Macon.

Bill Causey, of the Macon-Bibb County Engineering Department, said a big challenge construction crews encountered was finding some of the old concrete water reservoirs simply covered up with dirt. That created significant headaches, he said, but in the end it all came together.

“It has turned out extremely well,” Causey said. “It’s going to be a regional gemstone for Macon and Middle Georgia.”

It includes 3.5 miles of trails for walking, running, biking and roller-blading.

The work is largely done, Causey said, with the river overlook being the major element still not complete. From the overlook people will be able to see about a half-mile down the river in both directions. Causey said it’s about 80 percent done, and it could be a close call to complete it by the opening date, but it will not delay the opening if it isn’t.

Causey said he thinks the overlook will be the star attraction of the park.

The grand opening will start at 11 a.m. and last until 7 p.m. A ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. followed by live musical entertainment. There also will be an area for children’s games. People can bring canoes and kayaks to put in where the river enters the park, then float for a couple of hours to the other end where they will get a free ride back to the beginning. The rides will be provided only on the opening day.

Vehicle parking will not be at the park on opening day due to limited spaces. People can park at Hutchings College and Career Academy at 2011 Riverside Drive or Riverstreet Corners shopping center at 2720 Riverside Drive. The Macon Transit Authority will provide shuttle service to the park.

After the opening day, the park will be open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and unlike before, it will be staffed, Floore said.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.