(Editor's note: The author, Lonice Barrett, is commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.)
THIRTY-FOUR years ago my wife, Carol, and I moved into a tiny one-bedroom apartment in Belvedere, S.C., where we would live for 14 months as we started our careers. She taught some children with special needs at Belvedere Elementary School and I served as program secretary at the Augusta YMCA on Broad Street. It seemed like the year 2000 was forever in the future.
Working, living and playing in the Augusta area was a delight. We were newlyweds, young and had no extra money. ... We started buying furniture one piece at a time at Maxwell Furniture Co. and were faithful members at First Baptist Church. It was a great and wonderful experience. Augusta has always held a special place in our hearts!
Over the years we've had the privilege of various short visits to and through your fine community. Recently, we really enjoyed the Red Carpet Tours to Augusta, working together with your business and Chamber of Commerce officials to inform industrial prospects of the reasons why the Augusta area is such a good location to bring new jobs and investments. One such visit took us to the Enterprise Mill, one of the best restoration projects I have ever seen.
ONE OF MY very best friends is Pat Blanchard. Pat, Carol and I were classmates at Georgia Southern, and no one is more enthusiastic about Augusta than Pat. At his long-standing invitation, I enjoyed a visit to Augusta recently that made me realize just how progressive and exciting it must be these days to live, work and play in Augusta.
We rode through the Summerville area over on The Hill to see those beautiful historic structures, and also the outstanding work being done on the Woodrow Wilson boyhood home which is being restored by the Historic Augusta Foundation, Inc. The adjacent Lamar House will be the next restoration project and those two buildings, when fully redone, will be cornerstones of a downtown walking tour of historic attractions.
We visited the Fort Discovery Science Center, saw the gardens at the Golf Hall of Fame, had lunch with House Speaker Pro Tem Jack Connell, D-Augusta, and Rep. Robin Williams, R-Augusta, and then resumed the visit to three outstanding, exciting natural and cultural resources -- Riverwalk, the Cotton Exchange and the Augusta Canal.
Augustans and the rest of Georgia should be proud of those three sites. Riverwalk is an impressive and beautiful site. Augusta has joined other communities like Albany, Macon, Athens, Rome and Roswell by placing emphasis on helping its citizens protect and improve access along the river for passive recreation, scenic enjoyment and historical interpretation.
MAYOR BOB Young is to be commended for calling a public hearing to give Augustans a chance to provide testimony regarding the issue of decommissioning the New Savannah River Lock and Dam project, which has stood for 63 years. Serious and careful deliberation must be given to whether or not that proposed action occurs. There are both resource and non-resource based issues that deserve careful analysis in order that the right overall decision can be made. The Department of Natural Resources will be carefully assessing that overall proposal and seeking to provide input into the deliberations which will help decide the ultimate fate of the Lock and Dam.
I was amazed at The Cotton Exchange. What a beautiful building! What a great addition that structure makes to the "critical mass" of attractions along the river where children and adults can spend virtually an entire day enjoying the overlooks along the river, visiting the Discovery Center, the site of Fort Augusta, the Morris Museum of Art, St. Paul's Church, Golf Hall of Fame, Jessye Norman Amphitheater and the Convention Center. What a great grouping of natural and cultural resources.
We ended the day driving along the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area. That area must be protected and interpreted. It is an amazing resource with a very wonderful heritage. I have heard a lot recently about that canal, and it was good to again see it first hand.
AUGUSTA HAS a lot going for itself these days, and I pledge that the Department of Natural Resources will do all we can to be a good partner with you and look for opportunities to work closely together. A lot of good things have happened in 34 years. Congratulations Augusta!