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County plugs park sale at Blue Springs for now

A park that inspires fond memories for many Screven County residents got a reprieve Tuesday, but it may only be temporary.
County commissioners agreed unanimously to postpone the sale of Blue Springs Park for 90 days so neighbors can try to figure out a way to save it.
The 3.5-acre park that’s near the Savannah River, off Highway 24 in the Newington area, has tall trees dripping with Spanish moss that shade picnic tables. It also has what’s left of the swimming hole that was the center of activity up until about 20 years ago, when the springs stopped flowing.
Now, the old swimming hole is overgrown, with stagnant, slimy, green, shallow water and is a burden that county commissioners would like to sell.
 
“It’s a liability for the county from a drowning standpoint,” said Commissioner Will Boyd. “It’s a stagnant hole.”
 
Commissioners had planned to sell the park by taking sealed bids that would have been due on Sept. 21 and opened on Sept. 22. The county would make some money on the sale, would no longer have to maintain the park, would get the land back on the tax rolls and would no longer be liable if someone drowns there.
 
After reading about the sale in the Sylvania Telephone, five people came to the county commission meeting Tuesday to protest.
 
“It was very surprising to read in the paper that part of the heritage of most people in the room is going up for sale,” said Gerald Johnson, who lives across from the park.
 
Johnson said neighbors could form an association to maintain the property if the county would deed it to them for free, with the stipulation that it remain a park. But County Attorney Hubert Reeves III said that wouldn’t be legal; the county can’t give property away to a non-governmental group.
 
Reeves said the county could: keep the property and continue to operate it as a park; or keep the property and enter into an agreement with a neighborhood association, organized as a legal entity, to operate it as a park. The other option is for the county to sell the park, either by sealed bid or by public auction.
 
Some commissioners said the only way to get rid of the liability would be to sell the park.
 
Johnson said neighbors will get together to see what their options are -- whether they can come up with money to buy the park or if they can figure out some other way to save it.
 
Commissioner Gregg Ellison said he hopes the group can find a solution. “It really needs to be kept as a park,” he said. “Because of the upkeep and liability, I don’t think the county can do it.”