Dreaming big is something that certainly sets Statesboro apart. Last year, our community dreamed big and came home with a $1 million check as the third-place winner in Frontier Communication’s “America’s Best Community” competition. But we didn’t stop there.
The Blue Mile Committee realized the price tag to complete all of their dreams for the revitalization of the Blue Mile district would quickly total tens of millions of dollars. So, they went to work dreaming of a way to leverage the winnings in a transformational way.
Looking for ideas, they reached out to local developer Andy Burns. Burns had been inspired by a creek revitalization project he discovered in Frederick, MD, while his son attended graduate school there. At his encouragement, a local delegation traveled to Frederick and came back energized with the vision of a similar canal project in the Blue Mile district.
They established the “Creek on the Blue Mile” committee and raised nearly $40,000 to commission a feasibility study and develop marketing tools for the project. EMC Engineering completed the study and determined that the project could be a success and would solve critical flooding issues simultaneously, as well.
EMC’s study proposed building a 25-acre lake west of South College Street to alleviate flooding and control runoff while providing a reservoir for the city. Plans from the study included nature trails, fishing, kayaking and a pavilion with an adjoining playground. Approximately 75 acres in and around downtown Statesboro are expected to be removed from the 100-year flood plain when the project is complete.
Wednesday, Gov. Nathan Deal traveled to Statesboro to announce his personal support for the project and also a commitment of state funding for the $20 million project. The governor understands that creating a lake reservoir and canals in Statesboro not only will shape the future of the Blue Mile, but enhance the city’s gateway to downtown from Georgia Southern University.
The state funding will come in the form of a $5-million grant to fully fund building the reservoir and then issuing of $15 million in low interest state bonds earmarked for city storm water improvements that will fund the canal construction. The new “creek” will be funded with designated storm water funds already being collected by the city.
The governor also announced that the reservoir park would be named for Lonice Barrett, a former director of the Statesboro-Bulloch County Recreation Department, past commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and a longtime public servant.
Local officials, who stressed property taxes would not be used to fund any aspect of the project, estimate the Creek on the Blue Mile could generate up to 750 new jobs and expand the existing tax base to more than $100 million in the planned area of development.
The new linear park will be funded by the sale of creek front lots to business owners, investors and residential developers. The Georgia Department of Transportation and local funding sources including the Blue Mile Foundation, the Development Authority of Bulloch County and the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority will provide additional support.
The project, known as “Creek on the Blue Mile,” will transform a drainage canal into a park and creek front development through a public / private partnership. The area will be developed for entertainment, shopping, living and recreation opportunities along the creek as it intersects with South Main Street, adjacent to Shug’s on Main and the Baymont Hotel.
The existing canal under South Main will be reconfigured into a 20-foot wide, 3-foot deep creek with broad pedestrian boulevards and multi-story commercial, residential and entertainment venues on each side. The creek will wind to the southern section of Fair Road Park where a small amphitheater is being considered.
Members of the “Creek on the Blue Mile” commission include Trip Addison, Billy Allen, Frank D’Archangelo, Jason Boyles, Darron Burnette, Andy Burns, Donald Chavers, Becky Davis, Keely Fennell, Jenny Foss, Jamie Grady, Billy Hickman, Doug Lambert, Todd Manack, Laura Marsh, Allen Muldrew, Dawn Oliver, Phyllis Thompson, Rob Whitaker and Jeff Yawn.
The committee recognized State Senator Jack Hill, Majority Leader John Burns, Representative Jan Tankersley and Executive Secretary to the Governor Chris Riley, a GS Graduate for their assistance in putting together the state’s investment into the project.