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Preserving Costley Mill

Time may be running out for what some call Rockdale’s best kept secret — Costley Mill Park — and that’s bringing together a combination of historians, old-line families, environmental conservationists and economic development interests.

The park, about 80 acres in the northern tip of Rockdale, is the site of some of the earliest known Western settlements in the county and is rich with historical significance. It also sits smack dab in the middle of three important watersheds that feed the drinking water supply for Rockdale County.

The present owners, the Bowman family, are looking to sell the land to the county in hopes of seeing it become a county park. Although they’ve been in discussion with several administrations over the years, they said the matter has become more urgent.

"My health is going downhill," said Beverly Bowman, at a Rockdale County Soil and Water Conservation District meeting on Tuesday. "I have to start making arrangements for things. And that is the reason for the haste," he said, as his wife Sylvia and son Bryan blinked back tears.

The land, which had a corn mill first built on it in 1823, was in the Costley family from 1884 until the late 1950s. Costley Mill became quite a gathering place for the community for celebrations in its heyday during the early part of the 1900s. The mill itself burned down several times, the last time in 1973. The Bowman family purchased it in the early 1980s and opened the land again to the public, turning it into a park.

The Bowmans attended the presentation of a feasibility study on Costley Mill conducted by University of Georgia College of Environment and Design graduate students Deepali Pavnaskar and John Reichert. The comprehensive study looked at the topography, history, ecology, and precedent of creating parks of historical and environmental interest in the state.

"If you had to pick one heritage place (in Rockdale County), Costley Mill would be it," said Dr. Dan Nadenicek, dean of the UGA College of Environment and Design. "This is a time to collect our thoughts and pay attention to what we ought to be doing."

The study touched off discussion among the audience, which was made up of representatives such as Glen Sears of the Conyers-Rockdale Economic Development Council, Larry Kaiser of the Veteran’s War Memorial park, members from the Costley family including retired Judge Virgil Costley, the Bowman family, County CEO Richard Oden, County Chief of Staff Greg Pridgeon, and Ga. Soil and Water Conservation Commission members.

Attendees discussed a range of ideas for funding, such as Ga. Department of Transportation funds, holding a referendum or using Special Purpose Local Option Tax funds.

Other suggestions included appointing a person dedicated to looking into funding and grants for the park. At the close of the meeting, attendees agreed some sort of official group needed to be formed.

For more information on the feasibility study, contact Russell Tonning at For more information on the current day Costley Mil Park operated by the Bowmans, contact 770-483-2455.