AIKEN - Aiken County officials are negotiating a deal that they say could have international impact.
The purchase of 96 additional acres around Langley Pond, the site of regional and national rowing regattas, could position the county to bring worldwide competitions to the water venue, officials said.
"It will mean that we will be able to expand our recreational opportunities many times over," said Brian Sanders, the Aiken County Parks, Recreation and Tourism director. "We'll be able to offer bigger, better events. We'll be able to offer more amenities to the citizens of the CSRA."
Under the expansion plan, Aiken County would purchase 32 acres of land along the shore of the pond and developable property above the shoreline. The county plans to build a boathouse, grandstands, a finish-line tower and picnic shelters.
"We've already been rated by some folks as one of the top 10 rowing spots in the country," said County Administrator Clay Killian.
The additions should be finished by the 2009 rowing season. The expansion project could bring other benefits to the area, as well, he said.
"Hopefully, we'll be able to help that corridor between Aiken and Augusta on U.S. (Highway) 1," said Mr. Sanders.
The land cost $11,700 an acre, county officials said. The Aiken County Open Land Trust would purchase two land parcels, totaling 64 acres, between the developable shoreline and the commercial property along U.S. Highway 1.
Harry Shealy, the land trust president, said the county asked the nonprofit organization to submit a grant application to the South Carolina Conservation Bank to buy the land.
"Counties can't apply for Conservation Bank money," he said.
Mr. Killian said the county would pay for the transaction costs, including the property survey and appraisal, with the preservation funds.
As part of the plan, Aiken County would enter a long-term lease agreement for the 64 acres with the land trust.
"We will try to work out a lease agreement because we would prefer to have (the county) manage it," said Dr. Shealy.
Other than adding amenities such as hiking trails, he said, the 64 acres would remain undeveloped.
"The land trust basically is in the business of making sure that the land stays like it is," said Dr. Shealy.
Reach Betsy Gilliland at (803) 648-1395, ext. 113, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
South Carolina Recreation Land Trust grant: $100,000
Federal Land/Water Conservation Fund grant: $150,000
Option Sales Tax Langley Pond Park Expansion: $124,400
South Carolina Conservation Bank grant: $648,800
Option Sales Tax Preservation Funds: $100,000
Source: Aiken County Parks, Recreation & Tourism Dept.