Local support aims to keep park open

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A consortium of local leaders hopes to raise $100,000 as seed money to help maintain and preserve the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame Botanical Gardens after they are shut down next week.

A group of leaders wants to raise money to preserve and maintain the downtown botanical gardens after the planned closure next week.  Michael Holahan/Staff
Michael Holahan/Staff
A group of leaders wants to raise money to preserve and maintain the downtown botanical gardens after the planned closure next week.

"It would consist of 100 businesses, individuals and professionals that will pledge $1,000 each for maintenance of the gardens," businessman Brad Usry wrote in a memo Monday. "No money yet - just a pledge."

Mr. Usry, the chairman of a volunteer committee trying to rescue the deficit-ridden site, also wants portions of the massive brick wall that separates the site from the rest of downtown removed "to make it more inviting."

The gardens, which are out of money and received no state funds this year after Gov. Sonny Perdue vetoed the appropriation, are set to close this weekend.

Though the Hall of Fame can operate from Executive Director Dianne King's home, the fate of the gardens is unknown.

Mr. Usry's proposal would name the recruited benefactors the Georgia Golf Gardens Greenskeepers.

"If the Hall of Fame and state figure something out before July 1, there is no need for our group," Mr. Usry wrote. "That would be the best case, but if that day comes and the gates are closed, we hope the state will see fit to give this beautiful property a new lease on life."

If local leaders can recruit financial support, the committee intends to maintain the site as long as possible using local landscapers, prisoners and volunteers.

However, even if civic-minded Augustans pledge $100,000, it might not maintain the site for long.

In recent years, the cost of operating the attraction has been about $500,000 a year, including $36,000 for the purchase of city water for irrigation and about $20,000 in electricity costs.

Robyn Jarrett, the site's marketing director, said the gardens recently acquired a federal permit to pump water from the Savannah River, which would eliminate water purchases. However, the pump system was never completed, and it requires an investment of about $50,000.

John Grantham, who spent 35 years in the golf course maintenance and design industry, told committee members last week that the site could be maintained for $50,000 to $55,000 a year, or as much as $75,000 per year if the site remained open to the public.

That estimate, he said, doesn't include water and utility costs.

Ms. Jarrett said staff members will be on site through the end of July to get remaining bills and other issues resolved, but there is no current plan to maintain the gardens themselves.

Mr. Usry wrote that efforts to find local maintenance support are just a short-term solution. The long-term plan involves incorporating the gardens into a plan to erect a new baseball stadium nearby.

"It is our group's wish and mission for this land to be locally controlled and included in the Stadium's feasibility study and, eventually, part of the complex itself," Mr. Usry wrote.

"We believe it's a natural fit for the stadium complex, which has the support of the governor and Ripken Baseball."

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

HOW TO HELP


Local leaders are trying to recruit 100 benefactors to pledge $1,000 each toward maintenance of the golf gardens site. Anyone interested in participating can e-mail Brad Usry at fatguy9090@aol.com.

Comments (16) Add comment
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justus4
124
Points
justus4 06/26/07 - 05:50 am
0
0
Shut the thing down. It been
Unpublished

Shut the thing down. It been nothing but a rat hole. Why no investigation into the millions already lost. Why would the govenor put more dollars into a rat hole. Good luck.

patriciathomas
44
Points
patriciathomas 06/26/07 - 05:55 am
0
0
Maintaining the place with an

Maintaining the place with an eye to finally utilizing it makes sense, but so does finding out where all of those millions went.

laurak
4
Points
laurak 06/26/07 - 06:06 am
0
0
Well, at least we need a

Well, at least we need a record of who those foolish leaders are who have bought into this most recent plea for funds for the rat hole. Those 100 individuals need to be held accountable when, in a couple of more years they come back to the public crying because it once again was a financial failure.
I also agree we need an investigation of those who mismanaged the funds previously.

CSRAider
0
Points
CSRAider 06/26/07 - 07:37 am
0
0
The Money is gone! The place

The Money is gone! The place was a Dream that never got Finished. If they would have built the buiding and installed the pump for the water maybe with income from buisness parties and maybe a large golf convention or two it could have made it. WAIT HEREs A GOOD Idea lets turn it into a Race Track!

noils
5
Points
noils 06/26/07 - 08:42 am
0
0
It looks like the mall rats

It looks like the mall rats and "hill" people are up early. If they had their way, they'd subdivide the Gardens into lots for more downtown pawn shops and finance companies. The statues could be auctioned off with the proceeds going for tax cuts for the wealthy.

Augusta has the vision of Stevie Wonder.

Equaltreatmentforall
49
Points
Equaltreatmentforall 06/26/07 - 11:01 am
0
0
I live nearby and have seen

I live nearby and have seen no activity there for the last 3 years. It's not being utilized so why not put something else there that will be appreciated?

mfrazier
0
Points
mfrazier 06/26/07 - 11:07 am
0
0
The spent millions are gone

The spent millions are gone along with the people that spent it. The current crew is paying for the sins of their fathers. If you want to see beautiful gardens - get out of Augusta. Augusta's govt officials remind me a lot of the past Louisanna governors.

imdstuf
10
Points
imdstuf 06/26/07 - 11:26 am
0
0
Putting more money into it

Putting more money into it seems futile. They should just sell the land for other business and atleast recoupe some money.

intheknow
16
Points
intheknow 06/26/07 - 11:40 am
0
0
where is woody merry? SINCE

where is woody merry? SINCE HE IS SO CONCERNED ABOUT TAXPAYER'S MONEY. I RATHER KNOW WHERE 10 MILLION DOLLARS WENT.

The Knave
24
Points
The Knave 06/26/07 - 12:00 pm
0
0
Great -- another brilliant

Great -- another brilliant idea to spend someone else's money (taxpayers, that is). Build a new baseball stadium, which is not needed, to justify keeping a golf shrine that was a stupid idea from the beginning, and which has consumed $millions that can't be found. yy4me's suggestion of using it for a drag strip is the best so far!

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
18288
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 06/26/07 - 01:53 pm
0
0
The hall of fame can be

The hall of fame can be operated from the directors HOME.
Does anyone else see a red flag in this???

bodelairo
0
Points
bodelairo 06/26/07 - 03:25 pm
0
0
If you want a Canadian

If you want a Canadian opinion about the golf hall of fame ,I would say that looking at the site from Google earth .It look like a long sandy par 5 hole,and it should be scraped and the money should be invested on the municipal golf course near the airport.

G.R.I.T.S
0
Points
G.R.I.T.S 06/26/07 - 03:29 pm
0
0
If you want to see beautiful

If you want to see beautiful gardens, and gardens that are used YEAR ROUND, take a short drive to Aiken SC to Hopelands Gardens and the Horse Racing Hall of Fame. It is used through-out the spring and summer with outdoor weddings, concerts, and just plain old strolling. At Christmas it's a winter wonderland with lights and decorations. Maybe Augusta could take a lesson from Aiken. Their downtown area is vital and full of speciality shops and restaurants in restored buildings. Aiken's City Council is a model for getting things done, but then, we don't have a Marion Williams!

bigalsc
4
Points
bigalsc 06/26/07 - 03:31 pm
0
0
Here's an idea: use the site

Here's an idea: use the site for the Golf Hall of
Fame to build the Trade, Exhibit and Event Center with Terraces and a restaurant that overlook the Gardens and the River. What spectacular views! Event packages could include admission to the Gardens. Open the Gardens for public events and concerts both free and paid.

jasall18
1
Points
jasall18 06/26/07 - 09:18 pm
0
0
Shut it down. It was joke

Shut it down. It was joke from the start. The only thing the land is good for is a Parking lot for the new stadium. They put the cart before the horse and they now they did so why should we keep it up. I have no problem with a stadium going downtown,but if your gonna put it up, put adquate and close parking next to it.

rgweatherred
0
Points
rgweatherred 06/27/07 - 12:46 am
0
0
I second the idea that it

I second the idea that it would make a great location for the new convention center espeially if the county already owns the land. I don't know that the new center could actuall be constructed without destroying the gardens but the statues could be incorporated and it would provide a beautiful gateway to Augusta coming across the bridge from SC. It would also get rid of that awful building on the corner that seems to become a new business about every other month. It would also keep the new center removed from the hands of William Morris and his myriad companies; he has too much influence anyways.

mpatl
0
Points
mpatl 06/27/07 - 01:35 pm
0
0
Raymond, Get back to work-you

Raymond,
Get back to work-you have to much free time. Chances are you don't have a job. The property is valued at well over 12 million dollars-that and operational expenses is where all the money went you clueless fool.

A complete audit was done by the state and they found only $1,200 of expenses that were deemed inappropiate. Not bad for an operation of that magnitude. I wonder how much the city of Augusta wastes in tax-payer money every day.

Augusta would be Macon without the game of golf, and what it has brought into the local economy. Think about that for a moment, and when you are aware of the facts come back and post.

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