Group Wants To Move 1890s Homestead To Towns Bluff Park

The 1890s Homestead at the Jeff Davis Fairgrounds was a topic of conversation at last week’s Jeff Davis County Commission meeting as Rory Chaney of Hazlehurst and Carla Chaney of Douglas expressed their desires to have the facility restored and moved to Towns Bluff Park.
The homestead consists of authentic Jeff Davis County structures from throughout the county, dismantled, transported to the fairgrounds and reassembled by members of the Jeff Davis County Fair Association and a small army of volunteers in the 1990s. The first 1890 Homestead Celebration was held in 1997 and for years the celebration was an annual, all-day event that drew large crowds to the fairgrounds.
But the event was discontinued years ago and the facility has fallen into a state of disrepair. Most of the volunteers who founded the homestead years ago have died or have reached the age that they can no longer keep up the facility and no younger groups of citizens have shown an interest in preserving it.
Until, that is, two weeks ago when Rory Chaney asked to be put on the agenda to discuss the matter with the commission, along with Carla Chaney, the wife of Rory’s father-in-law, Jack Chaney.
Rory Chaney was informed by a member of the Fair Association that the association was unsure what to do with the homestead and did not want to see it destroyed. Rory Chaney took the matter further and began exploring ways to find funds to restore and relocate the homestead.
Carla Chaney, who told the commissioners she and Jack were planning to move back to Jeff Davis County where Jack grew up, has for years been doing volunteer work at General Coffee State Park in Douglas which also has an old homestead.
She said the Douglas facility hosts school groups, Scout groups, camps, etc., and charges rental fees for such things as weddings and other gathering which produces income for the park. General Coffee State Park continues to host an annual festival featuring artisans at work.
Rory Chaney added that restoring and relocating the homestead would preserve history, provide educational opportunities and be a great attraction for Towns Bluff Park and Heritage Center.
Commissioner Vann Wooten said he had already spoken with someone at the Heart of Georgia Regional Development Center who expressed keen interest in the matter and added that there were grants available to assist the effort.
The commissioners were receptive to the idea and both Wooten and Commissioner Brad Crews emphasized that they did not want the homestead torn down but, rather, restored and improved.
The commissioners approved a motion that if all parties involved were in agreement then the commission would approve the move if the funding could be found.
Before the Chaneys’ presentation, the meeting got off to a shaky start when it reached the Public Comments agenda item. When someone tried to speak, Commissioner Hank Hobbs pointed out a new policy which requires anyone who wants to speak to the commission first fill out a speaker’s form and turn it in to the meeting table.
The new policy was adopted in the commissioner’s March meeting but had not been put into effect until last Tuesday night. When citizen Rhonda Walsh asked if the new policy had been run in the paper, Hobbs said it had been run twice in the paper.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: No such public notification has been run in the Ledger. In talking with County Administrator Keith Carter, he too was under the mistaken impression that the public had been notified of the new policy in the Ledger.]
Since no one had turned in the required form, no public comments were allowed.
During the New and Old Business section of the meeting, Commissioner James Benjamin said he was contacted by a citizen who wanted to use the fairgrounds for a wedding reception. But the other commissioners reminded him that, since the county took over control of the fairgrounds from the Fairgrounds Association, they had agreed that the facility could only be used for school and agriculture related events. County Administrator Keith Carter said they had already turned down one request, and that was for a Christian-related event.
In another matter, Commissioner Wooten said he had talked with officials with Hazlehurst Wood Pellets and was told the road the county constructed for the facility was supposed to be four lanes but it is only two lanes. Carter explained that at this point only two lanes were needed and when the entire plant is up and running they will complete the project.
Wooten pointed out that the plant had been in business five years and he wanted to see the project finished. Hobbs said the project is under the purview of the Joint Development Authority and the authority had not brought the matter to the county, adding that he did not think it was a good idea for the county to start preempting them in their business or undermining what they were doing.
In other action, the commissioners ….
…. appointed Helen Allen to the Board of Elections.
…. appointed Walt Swain as Board of Elections Chair and Mrs. Allen Vice-Chair.
…. reappointed Dr. Kirk Munsayac to the Recreation Department Board.
…. approved resurfacing the Altamaha Road.
…. adopted the 2020 budget.
…. approved closing the courthouse on July 5.
…. voted to approve an easement needed by Silicon Ranch for its solar facility.

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