The Bryan County Commission has bought the Fisherman’s Co-op for $3.25 million with plans to turn the 24-acre property into a public recreation area.
The county announced the purchase in a press release sent out Wednesday.
“It’s not often a project comes along that will let us tie in a piece of the county’s history with a wide array of positive benefits and opportunities for our residents. When it does, though, we’re eager to learn more and consider all the options that exist,” Bryan County Commission Chairman Carter Infinger said in the release.
The county announced in March plans to spend up to $3.5 million to buy the Co-op, which was built in 1979 and has deep water access. The facility was in its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s used by shrimpers to unload their catches.
County officials “have since been weighing the considerations and taking into account a study done in conjunction with the City of Richmond Hill a few years ago. The study, concerning access to water, found that few options exist for water access on Georgia’s coast,” the county said.
The fishermen’s co-op property has a lot of potential, according to Infinger, and the county wanted to make sure a redevelopment project would be feasible, the press release from Bryan County said.
“There’s little doubt that reinvigorating this property would be beneficial for the county and its residents, and we’re currently exploring our options for usage. A boat ramp is part of the plan we’re devising, and there are a multitude of other opportunities and ideas being considered,” Infinger said.
County Administrator Ben Taylor said in July the county initially asked the engineering firm Thomas & Hutton to do a comprehensive look at the site and give a cost for “a Cadillac” version of a facility built out in phases over a long period, and that led to the $12 million price tag.
He said Wednesday there are grant funds available that county officials will apply for in order to implement the improvements.
“We understand that this will be a multiphase project that will have to be accomplished over a number of years. The scope of the facility can grow over time with the financial capabilities of the County,” Taylor said.
The fishermen’s co-op once consisted of a 900-foot dock, a 30-by-30-foot cooler to store the catch, a large storeroom for supplies, and a facility that could be used as a store for selling fish, the county said.
At one point, the coop was contributing over $5 million per year to the local economy.
The first Bryan County seafood festival – known today as the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival – was held on the co-op grounds.
“We like how ingrained the co-op is in the community’s history and culture. The opportunity to breathe new life into it is something we find particularly exciting, and I believe area residents are in agreement. Those who remember the old co-op understand what kind of implications this project could have. Younger folks may not know what a hotspot it once was, but there’s certainly an emotional and nostalgic element associated with the thought of reintroducing the co-op to a whole new generation of Bryan County residents,” Infinger said.