By David Shivers
A lot of DoCo Kiwanians, and other county residents as well, hold fond memories of summer days spent at the old Radium Springs casino and club, a landmark that fell into disuse and was eventually torn down following the devastating floods of 1994 and 1998.
Dougherty County Commission chair Jeff Sinyard had a vision of bringing the former local treasure back to life for public use, a goal was realized in a July 12 grand-opening ceremony. At a recent meeting, Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County members were given a look at how Dougherty County and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources have been – and are continuing – partnering to restore the luster to this former crown jewel of area attractions.
Dougherty County Assistant Director of Public Works Chuck Mathis and newly-appointed operations manager Justin Powell brought a photo slide presentation to illustrate what has been accomplished in restoring various facets of the once-grand site in southeast Albany.
Radium Springs Gardens, said Mathis, “is a project we’re excited about.” He added that officials wanted to keep intact and revitalize the historic aspects of the former club. Work started in October 2008, following a plan developed by architect/designer Ron Huffman. Mathis said the completion date had to be pushed back a few times due to flooding that delayed work, but phase one is complete and Radium Springs Gardens is now open to the public six days a week (Tuesdays-Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays, 1-5 p.m.). There is no admission charge, Mathis said.
The initial intent, according to Mathis, was to create a botanical garden, but “we weren’t technically qualified” to create a garden with official botanical designation.
Phase One encompassed work on a number of facility aspects, including benches on the casino level, new restrooms, reconstruction of the pedestrian bridge, a walkway to the “rain gardens” (a wetlands pond on the lower level), and a new canoe landing.
One thing that is noticeably absent is access for swimming. Due to liability issues that were not commonly prevalent during Radium Springs’ previous existence, the DNR isn’t presently allowing swimming at the reopened venue.
According to Mathis, the DNR owns the waters at Radium Springs as well as the adjacent land extending back to the Flint River. Mathis said the state agency has tentatively agreed to cooperate with the county on phase two of the project, which will incorporate work on the area across and behind the former beach and canoeing area.
Mathis said the county has already received requests to use Radium Springs Gardens for private social events such as weddings and parties, and is trying to determine how to best accommodate those uses within the park’s current security structure.
PHOTO BY DAVID SHIVERS
Dougherty Assistant Public Works Director Chuck Mathis tells DoCo Kiwanians about the Radium Springs Gardens project as a slide show provides illustration in the background.