Hartwell Receives 50-year Lease to Revitalize Hart State Park

Plans are for a mult-venue resort at what is now Hart State Park

The City of Hartwell now has the lease to Hart State Park.

Tray Hicks is the chairman of the Council’s Hart State Park Committee.

Hicks said the City has received a 50-year lease from the Corps of Engineers and clearance from the Corps to develop the park as a multi-venue resort.

He says his committee has already had a private company come in to look at what could be done with the park.

“First we went to a private company, hired them to find out what is the best use for the 147-acres, and they came up with a master plan,” Hicks explained. “It includes upgrading the campground, putting in an event center for weddings with the ability to have five weddings going on at the same time, adding cabins in the campground, a two-story restaurant at the end, the ability to have a paddle boat, like a dinner boat in there, an amphitheatre, and a hotel.”

Other plans include nature trails and a zip line.

According to Hicks, separate companies will run the campground, the wedding venues, the restaurant and hotel.

“Right now we’re looking at just the campground,” he said. “We’re not opening it. Let me clear that up. What we’re looking to do is what I believe all governments shoud do and that is turn it over to private enterprise. A private company can’t come in and lease this land. It has to be done through a government agency. So, what we’ve been doing and fighting for for the last six years is a lease to be able to do all these things, and have private enterprise come in and spend the money.”

According to Hicks, because the park will remain Corps property leased by the City, the City cannot benefit monetarily from the development of the park, but they can use the lease payments to run the park and make improvements.

“Already we’ve spent around $430,000 just to get this lease. So, the private companies that we’re bringing in will be set up on a payment plan. That’s how you figure up their lease payments. When you work with the Corps, the City can’t make any money on the lease,” Hicks said. “Anything we’ve spent can be paid for with the lease payments. So we’ll set up some enterprise funds to pay for lighting, additional sewers, roads, things like that. And the lease payments will go towards that.”

The new name for Hart State Park will be Hartwell Lakeside Resort, which he said they hope to have completed over the next six to eight years.

Hicks said while he’s aware there are those in the City who fear development of the park will take away the home town feel of Hartwell, he says the development is an opportunity to bring in tourism and much-needed revenue.

“It is a big vision. We are working towards doing things for the City of Hartwell that are good for the City. Bringing that park back to its full potential or taking it to its full potential. It’s never really been at its full potential. Taking it to its full potential is vital,” Hicks concluded.

Hicks said the City is already in talks with a private company that runs campgrounds in several states to lease the park campgrounds initially.

He said plans are to open the park the first of January as the Hartwell Lakeside Resort, initially offering camping.

You can go online to www.hartwelllakeside.com to view the master plan for the park.