New Waterslide, Cabins, Campsites at Oconee Springs Park
New waterslide, cabins, campsites at Oconee Springs Park
By Lynn Hobbs
Referred to by many as “Putnam County’s best-kept secret,” Oconee Springs Park has undergone many improvements the past three years, including a new campground with full hookups, new cabins, improvements to the store and beach, and the most recent popular attraction -- a waterslide in Lake Sinclair.
“In my mind, I see the old fish camp when we first came; and now, I see kids laughing and playing,” Park Manager Lonnie Campbell said in pensive tone when describing the changes.
For years, Lonnie and his wife, Susan, kept a camper at the park; it was their weekend home away from their Stockbridge home. After Lonnie retired, his stays at the park became longer, and he began helping “Mr. Howard,” the manager at the time. When Howard Walls unexpectedly died the week before Labor Day several years ago, the park was full of campers, and more were expected for the busy holiday; so county officials asked Lonnie if he could fill in for awhile. The holiday week stretched into several weeks and a couple of months later, Campbell became the new manager of the county-owned park on Lake Sinclair.
“We sold our home, down-sized and moved here. We love it now, this is our home,” he said. “We’ve worked hard to improve the park. All the people here before us did their parts, so all we’ve done is build on what they already made.”
Three years ago, a tornado hit the park and destroyed practically everything there. The county wasted no time beginning renovations, many of which have been completed, and several more are still in the works.
On July 4th, the park’s newest attraction opened, a 16-ft. water slide and trampoline that is actually in the lake.
“We saw one when we were in Cancun and we said ‘We’ve got to get one of those,’” Lonnie explained.
“When we opened it, there were boats parked all over the place out there,” Susan added. “It is amazing. The kids have absolutely loved it.”
The inflatable slide and trampoline are connected by a “swim step,” Lonnie said, and it is all held in place by 6,000-pound anchors.
“We got the type that’s set up for ocean use because of the current changes here in the lake,” he noted. The area is roped off to keep boaters away. After swimming season has ended, the inflatable playground will be deflated, brought to land and stored until next year. The plan is for more pieces to be added each year.
Both adults and children can enjoy the slide; a day pass is $8 per person; life jackets are required for children and recommended for adults (due to the current in the lake and the swim-distance to reach the slide) and are provided by the park.
Park Day passes for swimming are $3 per adult and $1 per child.
Pedal boats, kayaks, paddleboard rentals and camping facilities
Pedal boats, kayaks and stand up paddleboards also can be rented there, and the park has a full marina, which sells nothing but recreational fuel (R90 with no ethanol), Lonnie said. The new docks have 16 slips.
Open year-round, the onsite campground has 50 sites with 50-amp and 30-amp RV electrical systems. All the sites also have sewer hookups, unlike other campgrounds in the area. Camping fees are $30/night for 30-amp, and $40/night for 50-amp, plus an extra $10 for full hookup. The price is the same for tents.
Six new, fully furnished cabins have replaced the old cabins swept away by the tornado. Four of them are one-bedroom, which sleeps four people comfortably, Susan said. Those are $125+tax per night. Another cabin, also one-bedroom, meets handicap standards and also sleeps four people for $125/night plus tax.
One cabin has two bedrooms and sleeps six to seven people for $145+tax per night. Some of the cabins have full-size kitchens and others have smaller kitchens; they all have a grill outside. Bed linens and towels are not furnished and no pets are allowed.
Many boaters out on Lake Sinclair stop to buy gas at the marina and go in the store to get cold drinks or an ice cream. The store is stocked with things people might forget or run out of while on vacation, Susan described.
“It’s not a grocery store, but we do have frozen meats and fresh tomatoes, so if someone decides they want to throw a steak or a burger on the grill, they can,” she said. “And, if we don’t have it, we’ll try to find it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to my own home to get something like aluminum foil for someone who forgot to bring it.”
The store also sells Lake Sinclair souvenirs, as well as wicking clothing for anglers, and knick-knacks.
The back door of the store opens up to a nice deck that is right on the beach and lake, making it more convenient for swimmers and boaters. From picnic tables to a boiled peanut stand or a coffee station, there are small spots scattered around the interior and exterior of the store that seem to invite visitors to sit and enjoy themselves.
“What it boils down to is, this is our home and we prepare it every single week for a big party,” Susan said. “We clean it up, decorate it; then everybody comes and then they leave and we start it all over again.”
“We want the people of Putnam County to be proud of it. We want it to be a good thing for the county,” added her husband.
Oconee Springs Park is located at 109 South Spring Road, Eatonton, GA 31024. The phone number is 706-485-8423, and www.putnamcountyga.us/oconee-park is the website.