By: Randy DuTeau
Columbia County, Georgia is recognized nationally as one of the top places in the United States to live and work. With an abundance of natural resources and excellent parks and facilities, it’s no wonder the county is also listed as one of the healthiest places to live in the state of Georgia. With a growing number of high-profile events taking place at venues around the county, we are becoming known as a premier destination for sports competition and outdoor activities.
Recent events in Columbia County include the NCAA Division II Soccer Championships, the USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike Nationals and the USA Rugby Southern Conference Championships. This October, USA BMX will bring their Gold Cup East Championships to the Columbia County community of Evans, and in November, REV3 Adventures will host the inaugural Bartram’s Wildwood Adventure race at Wildwood Park. While disparate in their nature, the common denominator of these activities is high quality venues.
Wildwood Park has long been a favored attraction for the county. The 975-acre facility located in Appling along the shores of Clarks Hill Lake is known to recreational and professional fishermen alike as a great launching point for the 72,000-acre reservoir. With a six-lane mega boat ramp, ample parking for trailers, and fish cleaning and weigh-in stations, the park has been a preferred site for fishing tournaments from the ESPN Bassmasters to events hosted by the American Bass Anglers and the Georgia Bass Federation for years.
Activity at Wildwood Park, however, is not limited to the lake. The park is home to the International Disc Golf Center which features three championship 18-hole courses, a pro shop, the Professional Disc Golf Association’s Hall of Fame, and a museum dedicated to the game. The Bartram Trail also passes through the park. This trail system has grown significantly in popularity over the years with mountain bikers, trail runners and hikers.
In 2014, the Columbia County CVB launched the Wildwood Games competition to promote Wildwood Park and the trail system. The multi-sport competition features mountain biking, trail running, open water swimming and disc golf. The quality of the trails allowed Columbia county to be named host of the 2015 and 2016 USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike National Championships. These races are run in conjunction with the Wildwood Games and have raised the profile of mountain biking in the county.
This past March, Columbia County opened a new addition to Blanchard Woods Park, a $1.5 million BMX track and skatepark. Combined with four soccer fields, a championship stadium and a certified cross country running course, the Evans facility has expanded its capacity for large-scale events. In 2012 and 2013, the NCAA held its Division II National Soccer Championships there, and in October up to 1,000 racers are expected for the USA BMX Gold Cup East Championship races on the new track.
Columbia County is defining the perfect balance of having ideal recreational spots for its citizens and making them attractive for visitors. As the county builds its resume with high-profile events, a greater awareness of all the positive attributes the county has to offer will be generated and more visitors will certainly follow. This isn’t lost on the business community as a number of new hotels and restaurants to accommodate the influx will be opened in the next year.
For a community that prides itself on its quality of life, Columbia County citizens have displayed a willingness to share it with the rest of the world. Such hospitable attitudes have proven effective in making this community a great place to live and work. By placing a premium on quality facilities, it most certainly explains why Columbia County is also a perfect place to play.
Randy DuTeau is Executive Director of the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau. He and his wife have two beautiful children. He is an avid cyclist and passionate about promoting Columbia County. www.ColumbiaCountyItsHere.com