Oakfuskee already in the black

Published 9:42 am Friday, December 8, 2023

After more than a year in the works, the Oakfuskee Conservation Center officially opened for business with a grand opening on Friday. The new event center is already running in the black and the county intends to keep it that way.

While Oakfuskee is owned by the county, it’s being run as an enterprise, or as a business, rather than a service supported by taxpayers. The county plans to use profits made by the conservation center to make improvements to Pyne Road Park where Oakfuskee overlooks West Point Lake.

Construction for the conservation center was paid for primarily using a combination of state and federal grants and SPLOST funds. However, no property taxes were used to build the new event center. The large event facility will still require significant ongoing maintenance funds to remain in the black.

County Manager Eric Mosley said the facility is expected to cost about $10 to $12,000 per month to operate at a profit.

“Honestly if we had to two weekends a month, booked fully all weekend, then it would pay for itself,” Mosley said.

Mosley said that since the facility opened on Friday, the center has been booked for events nearly every night for the opening week. One of the first events in the Oakfuskee was the Board of Commissioners Christmas Party.

“Because of the fact that it is an enterprise fund, even if the commissioners utilize it, we also pay for it, so we [the Board of Commissioners] paid to use the space,” Mosley said.

On Saturday night, Oakfuskee will host the First Annual LaGrange Mayor’s Christmas Ball. The sold-out event will feature live music from Grammy Award-winning artist Regina Bell.

“[It’s] a very popular venue at the moment,” Mosley said. “It’s the newest and it has an excellent view of West Point Lake. It’s really the only place that has a completely unobscured view of the lake free from trees or debris.”

Mosley said the venue is currently in the black through 2024. He said they began marketing the facility long before it was open.

“We learned from the mistakes of some of the other venues in waiting until we were open before we started really marketing the facility,” Mosley said. “Ultimately, we had a great opportunity to get the word out and had a lot of time to get it filled up very quickly.”

The county plans to put the money back into the park for further enterprise opportunities as well as improvements for the public.

Mosley said the county is considering adding additional lodging in the park, which would also be run as a business. We could further develop opportunities for lodgings for one, two and three-bedroom cottages as well as yurts and glamping tents, he said.

The county would also like to further expand the multi-use trails used for hiking, biking and horseback riding in the park.

“Our goal is to try to expand that to up to 12 miles in the next few years,” Mosley said.