PICKENS COUNTY — Despite “breaking ground” over eight months ago, work has yet to begin on Pickens County’s new Twelve Mile Recreation Park that was to be open this year.
A groundbreaking ceremony took place on Nov. 16, 2016 at the site in Norris, supposedly putting construction, landscaping and design for the area into motion. But according to County Administrator Gerald Wilson, the bids from that project are only now coming in.
“It hasn’t been forgotten, things just haven’t progressed as quickly as (the previous Council) anticipated,” Wilson said. “I think this is a case where the cart may have been put a little bit in front of the horse.”
Wilson said several bids were coming in at once — including that of the new jail.
When completed, the Twelve Mile Recreational Park will actually consist of two separate recreation areas: The Norris Highway Park and the Madden Bridge Park.
According to C. Wesley Hulsey, president and CEO of McCormick and Wallace, the company that came up with the designs for the future park, the Norris Park will provide fishing, hiking, picnic and whitewater paddling access to the river while The Madden Bridge Park — in addition to those listed at Norris — will also include a take out point and flat-water paddling access point to the Twelve Mile arm of Lake Hartwell.
While he agreed that eight plus months between ground-breaking and construction was “not typical,” Hulsey said the delay had to do “with the timeline of the previous council.”
“Things don’t always turn on a dime but at this point we have the bid and anticipate construction to begin mid-August,” he said.
Hulsey said he expects the Norris Highway Park (known locally as Cateechee Beach) to be finished up “around the first part of 2018.”
Madden Bridge is taking longer.
Project Manager Hal Morris stated the Bridge is still under design and taking “a little longer than expected.”
Still, both Morris and Hulsey expect construction on the Bridge park to begin no later than Spring of next year.
County officials stated in a release back in November that upon the completion of the Twelve Mile River Parks “thousands of people will visit on an annual basis” creating “nearly 100 jobs.”
Retail sales and commerce are also expected to grow in the Norris, Six Mile and Central regions of the county.
The groundbreaking was referred to as “bittersweet” at the time by then Council Chair Jennifer Willis due to the ceremony happening in conjunction with a state of emergency declared in response to the wildfires atop Pinnacle Mountain.
“In this season of Thanksgiving, it is appropriate to give thanks for our natural resources and those who protect them,” she said at the ceremony. “Today we are here to celebrate the creation of waterway access on the Twelve Mile river and to restore citizen access (to the river) after years of clean-up.”
Due to pollution in the 1970’s, waterways were negatively affected, Willis said.
“The riverbeds behind us have had dams removed, they’ve been dredged and the sediments left have been blanketed,” said Willis. “The riverbed is now considered safe.”