Botanical gardens nearing completion

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY -- A project aimed at revitalizing the site of the former Radium Springs Casino is nearing its end despite delays caused by heavy rains and cold weather.

The Radium Springs Botanical Garden is designed to transform the old casino grounds, which were destroyed by the 1994 flood, into a vibrant, modern garden and recreation area, architect and project manager Ron Huffman said.

Although hampered by three separate flooding incidents and one of the coldest winters on record for the area, the project is now moving forward and is set for completion on April 9, Huffman said.

"That's not the date it'll be open to the public, mind you, that's the date where we expect work to be completed," he said. "Typically it takes another two weeks or so to go in and clean it up and get it ready for the public."

The development includes the construction of walls around the perimeter of the former casino building, which under FEMA guidelines could not be rebuilt at that location.

The gardens include multiple small gardens and the restoration of the area around the springs -- something Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard hopes will one day lead to swimming in the springs.

"To have a garden is wonderful, but to go out in July or August and get in that water would be much, much better," Sinyard said.

That, however, will be a difficult challenge since the state has strict guidelines for use of natural springs as swimming holes.

The casino was once a jewel in Southwest Georgia, beckoning young and old to spend a day at the springs.

County Administrator Richard Crowdis said that talks were underway with state officials to allow canoeing and fishing at the nearby creek that is fed by the spring -- a move that would make it a multipurpose recreational area.

"That canoe ride from the spring to the river is one of the best in the state," Sinyard said. "We're just lucky to have this here."

Obvious signs of life are already showing at the site.

Developers have planted 20-foot-tall magnolias on the property and have resodded much of the area as well as whitewashed the structures in an homage to the original edifice.

Planting of many of the garden's plants and shrubbery will now commence as the weather appears to be warming for spring, Huffman said.