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Arrowhead Park comes back after storm

MACON, Ga. (AP) - The view of Lake Tobesofkee is clear from the freshly poured cement campsites at Arrowhead Park.

The Mother's Day storm that ravaged Bibb County last year made sure of that when winds of 110-to-132 mile per hour blew away any trees that might have obstructed the view.

"Arrowhead was completely destroyed from the storm, so we're having to start over and basically redo the whole park," said Doug Furney, Lake Tobesofkee's director.

Arrowhead, the hardest hit of the lake's three county parks, has remained closed for nine months as county workers labored to remove debris, clear trees, repair damages and rebuild. Both Sandy Beach and Claystone parks were open by Independence Day last year.

In some ways, the storm may have been a blessing in disguise. Officials are taking the opportunity to renovate Arrowhead Park as they rebuild it. Until now, not much had changed at the park since it opened in 1970.

"It was a catastrophe, but we're using it to make the park much better than it was before," Furney said.

Besides repairing and replacing what was damaged and destroyed, officials also will improve some other park facilities such as roads and bathhouses.

In all, the project is expected to cost about $1.1 million, according to Bibb County estimates. About $704,000 of that amount will be paid for with insurance money, said Steve Layson, Bibb's chief administrative officer. Much of the remaining costs will be paid from hotel/motel tax funds if approved by the Bibb County Commission. So far, the project is coming in under budget, Layson said.

The new campgrounds will have wider and deeper spaces for visitors to park motor homes. New water and electrical lines, which were ripped out during the storm, will run underground to the camp area. Electrical power will be upgraded from 30 to 50 amp breakers to accommodate today's larger, more powerful motor homes, Furney said.

Arrowhead's camping area will have room for 52 motor homes and six tents. It also will feature more "pull through" spots for the motor homes and sewer connections.

In the past, a lack of pull through sites and electrical problems sometimes angered campers or drove them away, Furney said. There will be 14 fewer campsites as a result of the improvements.

Furney said he hopes the park will reopen by July Fourth, a popular holiday for the county's lake parks.

Lake Tobesofkee's revenues already are down about $60,000 for the first half of this fiscal year, mostly due to the park's closure, he said.

The improvements at Arrowhead will allow the county to increase its Lake Tobesofkee fees by $5 to $10 per night to stay at the park.

Previously, it cost $15 for a campsite.

The new prices will be in line with state parks and Georgia Power lakes, Furney said.

Officials also hope the improvements will draw more interstate traffic.

Historically, Arrowhead mainly has been a campground for locals.

Bibb County resident Wendell Smith has camped there since the park first opened.

Smith, who is affectionately called "the mayor of Arrowhead," was camping there the night the storm blew through. He and other campers huddled in the bath houses as their cars and motor homes were damaged and destroyed.

Smith said he's eager to get back out to Arrowhead, a place that's nostalgic for him.

"A lot of people talk about change and this, that and the other, but I liked it the way it was," he said.

"It won't never be the same park because about all the trees are wiped out of it."

Hopefully, the changes will be for the better, he said.