My husband and I live right beside Factory Shoals Park. I have been here for more than 30 years. My husband was born and raised right beside the park; his family has lived and worked the land on and beside Factory Shoals Park for more than 100 years.
If you take the time to research facts, most of the people who drown at Factory Shoals are not from this area and don’t know the dangers that lie beneath the surface.
If you speak with everyone who lives down here, almost everyone will tell you not to go into the river. It is too dangerous.
The park ranger (manager) is a great friend of ours, and when it comes time to redo the budget for the park, he has asked several times over the past years for the county to give him a little bit more money to hire an assistant.
It is hard for him to catch everybody who is drinking and doing drugs and whatever else. He is only one person, and during the busy season, which is mainly summer and fall, it is hard for him to cover all the areas.
I am sure the county could find $10,000 or so in waste so that we could have extra help and security down here.
To generate more income for the park, I would like to see the parking lot across the river have a meter put in that generates a ticket that has to be put on your windshield showing that you have paid to park and with a message printed on it that states the dangers of the river, and a gate to close the parking lot at night.
The island of Tybee has them all over, and the money from these meters is used to help with the maintenance and upkeep of the beaches. This would be a way to offset some cost.
Another way to secure the parking lot would be to put in electronic security gates like the ones at the new car wash on U.S. Highway 278 in Covington.
The way they work is you pay for a ticket and the gate opens to let you in. This would help to cut back on the amount of monitoring needed for this parking lot and generate income for the park.
As residents of the area, we have the State Patrol come and patrol the area several times during the year, and run radar on Newton Factory Bridge Road.
I would like to see bright yellow or orange signs posted at both entrances and along the riverbanks stating the hidden dangers below the surface.
I also think it would be helpful if there were a couple of signs posted as memorials listing how many have drowned each year and with an area to add to the list, so as to create an awareness in individuals who read it.
I also would like to see brochures given out at the entrance to the park, describing the hidden dangers beneath the surface, and the dangers of drinking and swimming.
One of the reasons the dive team has to be tied off (when searching the river) is because of the swift water and the danger of the rocks.
The water is running between these rocks, and when the water is up, the swift water can pull you under these rocks and it may be impossible to get out of the current.
One of the areas in the river known to locals is called the toilet bowl, because of the suction created underneath the surface. A person can get caught in it and drown.
Before the park was here, it (the shoals area) was a haven for college kids, drugs, alcohol, etc. Closing this park would make things worse because it would not be monitored at all and would become a haven for crime.
This park needs at least one more person hired to help during the busy season to help oversee everything, and plenty of signage and information for the public to inform them of the dangers before getting into the water.
Closing the park is not the answer; information is valuable and can save lives.
Robin McClure Aiken is a concerned citizen of Newton County. If you have a concern you’d like to voice, send us an email or stop by our offices. Contact information can be found on the facing page.