Frankie Beers, Columnist
Hello again! Last time I wrote about Rutledge’s new face of our community – the front door, with the new diorama at the train depot. Now you need to know about our wonderful back door, one of Georgia’s best kept secrets, “Hard Labor Creek State Park.”
We are so fortunate to have the second largest state park (5,804 acres) in our back yard. Hard Labor Creek offers a wide range of recreational opportunities in a beautiful wooded setting. This is one of the places we take friends who are visiting with us, as an introduction to Morgan County. How did all this happen in our small but special corner of Morgan County? Let’s go back several decades. Remember back then the land was stark and barren, with little or no trees.
First the name…the creek that runs through the property was supposedly named “Hard Labor” Creek either by the slaves who once tilled the summer fields or from Native Americans who found the area around the stream difficult to ford. Hard Labor Creek Park was built in 1934 by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps).
The site was a vacant, overworked agricultural land at the time. The CCC’s goal was to reclaim the unusable farm land, create recreational areas and teach young men a skill or trade. What an accomplishment this was and in 1939, Hard Lake Creek Park became a National Park. In 1946 it was turned over to the State of Georgia and became Hard Labor Creek State Park. The State continues to operate and maintain the Park today.
The Park is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Hard Labor Creek State Park has something for everyone. Are you interested in just taking a walk on one of the trails to clear the clutter from your brain and enjoy nature… or a weekend camping trip…. or horseback riding on their 22 mile trail (bring your own horse)…a picnic….geocaching?
Hard Labor Creek also has facilities for various groups…weddings, family reunions, birthday parties, meetings, business and church retreats. Things to see and do include the trading post (park office) golfing, picnic shelters, BBQ pits, fishing, birding, hiking, horseback riding, biking, geocaching, lake swimming, boat rental, group camp programs, children’s playground, observatory and camping via tents, trailers, RV, cottages or pioneer campground. Some of these are available seasonally.
They also have facilities to handle groups of 1 to 120. There is a $5 parking fee but annual passes are available. Some programs also have fees. There is so much to see and do and it’s all right here in Morgan County, right in our back yard. Park hours are Sun – Sat, 7am – 10 pm. Office hours are 8 am – 5 pm. To be sure you’re not disappointed, reservations are advised for some of the programs, i.e. campsites, cottages, shelters, golf, horse stables, etc.
For further information and reservations, call Hard Labor Creek Park at 706-557-3001, for Golf , 705-557-3006 and for general reservations 800-864-7275 . You can Google: Hard Labor State Park and click on gastateparks.org/HardLaborCreek or go to HYPERLINK “http://www.gastateparks.org/”www.gastateparks.org/. We’re also fortunate to have an organization “Friends of Hard Labor Creek State Park”.
This HLC Friends chapter is affiliated with the Friends of GA State Parks & Historic Sites, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Friends of HLC and donors contribute time, effort and money and are committed to continuing its long standing partnership with and support of the state parks. One “HLC Friends” upcoming project is the restoration of the historic water wheel located near the 14th green (the Signature Hole) of The Creek Golf Course. No longer in use, the water wheel is a landmark. I understand many a golfer has funny stories to tell about how the wheel helped or hurt them at that green.
Fund raising plans include “Save the Water Wheel” golf outing on Friday, April 25, 2014. Money raised will go towards getting the historic water wheel back operating. You can get more information on joining Friends of Hard Labor Creek by calling the park or online at the web site. Plus, your annual Friends membership has many benefits and is valid at all GA State Parks. See the Calendar in this newspaper for scheduled programs at Hard Labor Creek through October which includes Wagon Rides, Kayak Tours, Viewing a Meteor Shower, Fall Festival and Creepy Carriage Rides.
I hope you will explore Hard Lake Creek State Park during these crisp fall days and enjoy what Morgan County has to offer. Easy access, no traffic jams, peaceful setting, friendly and helpful staff and great exercise. You might be surprised at what you’re missing. I enjoyed my walk on the trails, hope you will too!