invisible hit counter
Park location becomes costly error
KINGSLAND -- Gilligan's Island Park was the most popular municipal park in Camden County before it was shut down in 2007.

Large numbers of people would visit the 26.8-acre park at a freshwater lake off Ga. 40 and St. Marys Road to swim, picnic, grill, socialize and suntan on a sandy beach.

The park, which opened in July 2003, was also the site of tragedy. Three people drowned in separate incidents at the lake, which had no lifeguard, within the first three years it was open.

But it wasn't the drowning deaths that prompted county officials to close the park. The improvements by the county to the undeveloped shoreline property were mistakenly made on a tract owned by someone else - Kings Bay Properties - instead of property owned by the county.

Work by the Camden County Public Service Authority included a dirt road, paved parking lot, boat ramp, retaining wall along the shoreline and other improvements. One structure, a storage shed, was built on land owned by the county.

After the mistake was discovered in 2007, the owners tried to work out a settlement with the PSA without success.

Lawyer Jim Stein said the county has failed to resolve the issue with his clients through either a cash settlement or land swap.

The owners have little recourse because the PSA didn't have the liability insurance to protect itself, and state law prevents them from suing the county for damages, Stein said.

"They didn't touch any of their property, and it was their own survey," he said.

Instead of offering a settlement, the county removed the structures it built, leaving the boat ramp, retaining wall along the shoreline and parking lot.

Stein said his clients will have to pay to remove the parking lot if they ever want to develop their property.

Taxpayers should be just as angry as his clients, Stein said. It cost $280,000 to build the park at the wrong location, and residents haven't had a park on the lake to go to since it closed six years ago.

"They don't seem to have any plans to revive it," Stein said. "Why has the public paid for a park it can't use? Why would the PSA abandon this project?"

PSA Director William Brunson said the county has not abandoned plans to build a park at the correct location on the lake.

"We don't plan to keep it closed forever," he said. "We've just got to get in there."

* Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about Camden County and other local topics. Contact him at gjackson@thebrunswick, or at 464-7655.

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