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DeCastro property eyed for trail rest stop
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With the ribbon cutting introducing the Natural Trail at Black Shoals Park occurring Monday, the Rockdale County Parks and Recreational department wasted little time moving on to its next project.

Rockdale County Capital Projects Manager Andrew Hammer says the DeCastro Homestead property, a cabin-like home located on 88-acres of land along the Rockdale River Trail in the south end of the county, should be the next piece of property to receive the county's attention.

Hammer approached the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners during the board's Tuesday morning work session to inform them about a grant from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources that will provide funding for the project and to ask them for a resolution, a requirement from the GADNR, for the grant

"We want to do something that will enhance that trail system," Hammer told the board. "Up until now, the DeCastro property hasn't really been utilized other than as a nature preserve... There hasn't been any funding sources to do anything with the property."

Adding to the Rockdale River Trail

The total cost to renovate the project will be $100,000. The grant will provide 80 percent, $80,000, of the funding with the county using its money from its impact fees to pay the remaining 20 percent.

The renovation project will convert the DeCastro property into a public restroom facility, something that's sorely needed and wanted along the Rockdale River Trail, says Hamer.

The property is located about halfway between the two existing trail heads, the South Rockdale Community Park and Daniel Bridge Road, says Hammer, so it's an optimum place to provide such an amenity.

"That's one of the main elements on our 10-mile trail system that people ask for," he said.

The home will largely retain the same outside look.

The project will also add a pavilion, nature center and a park office with an emergency phone.

Post 1 Commissioner Oz Nesbitt suggested adding a station on the property for a deputy from the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office to be on the property during operating times.

"It's truly in the middle of nowhere," said Nesbitt. "If there is an incident or an accident that takes place, and we don't have the proper equipment and response vehicles to get along that trail in a timely fashion, there could be a bigger problem when you start looking at the word liability on behalf of the county."

Hammer assured him there would be a place for a deputy to be on the property.

What's the value of the property?

Nesbitt also questioned the value of the DeCastro property.

"I think all that is great," Nesbitt said of the grant. "My question in turn is there is there a possibility we could do a cost analysis, or assessment, inspection of the property to see what we'll be looking at when you talk about going in there and revitalizing this property and rehashing the property? Can the board be provided with that breakdown prior to committing to this or are we pressed for time?"

Hammer stated no appraisal had been done and to do one now would hinder the project before it even gets started.

Results of an appraisal would take months to get back, says Hammer, and the grant application has been submitted before or by Nov. 16, otherwise the project will be put on hold for two years.

"I just feel safer doing business, from a business standpoint, (with a fair market value number)," said Nesbitt. "I'm in favor of the proposal that (Hammer) has. I just think it's in our best interest to have a value of the house as it sits right now."

County Chairman and CEO Richard Oden suggested Hammer ask Rockdale County Tax Commissioner RJ Hadley to do assess the value of the property to avoid a long waiting period.

"That's a short run there," said Oden.

History of the DeCastro Property

Ramon de Castro donated his property to the Rockdale County Government in 1991.

When it was donated, the de Castro family requested to see the property serve as a nature preserve to promote recreational education in a natural habitat, according the proclamation read aloud by Hammer.

This is another reason to move forward with project.

"That way were not only honoring de Castro's wishes back in 1991, but we're also able to enhance our Rockdale River Trail."