After five years of allowing continued public access to Yellow Bluff, developers have finally transitioned the Midway marina into an amenity open to users who purchase club and fish camp memberships, effective July 5.
Yellow Bluff Development, LLC, purchased the 35-acre fish camp, located off Islands Highway, in 2005 from the family of Arthur Goodman, who had owned and operated it since 1951, according to Yellow Bluff marketing and public relations specialist Debra Brown.
Raburn Goodman still works as dockmaster at the marina, and Brown said the public can continue to access Yellow Bluff by boat or car to purchase marina fuel and bait. Brown described the membership access options as similar to those offered by the local YMCA and the Savannah Yacht Club; the latter charges a $7,500 initiation fee and $200 a month.
In a news release, Yellow Bluff Development partner Ren Keel said when the developers bought the property and fish camp from the family, “we made it known that the marina would be available only to property owners at some point. At that time, we were happy to allow the folks who had come for years and paid to put their boats in the water to continue to use our facilities, for a time, as a courtesy.”
The completion of amenities including the clubhouse, pool and docks triggered the decision to follow through on the developers’ original intent to reserve those privileges for members of Yellow Bluff Club and Yellow Bluff Fish Camp, Keel said.
Property ownership at Yellow Bluff includes club membership and property owner association membership. “Obviously, the marina is a major focus of their amenity package,” he said.
But it won’t be just residents who can pay for club or fish camp membership; Keel and Brown said the decision was made to also offer annual memberships to people through Friends of Yellow Bluff.
These memberships include full club membership, which gives access to all on-site amenities and unlimited use of the marina for $3,000 a year; fishing club membership includes marina service and unlimited fishing for $2,000 a year; and a limited fishing club membership allows occasional users access and service a maximum of five times a year for $500 annually.
“There may come a time, when we have more residents, that we decide to limit the number of annual memberships,” Brown said. “When that time comes, the last people who have joined will be the first who won’t be allowed to renew their memberships ... so it is better to go ahead and be among the first to join.”
Yellow Bluff’s transition to limited, paid access leaves two nearby marinas for the general public to continue using — Half Moon Marina on Azalea Road and Sunbury Marina on Brigantine Dunmore Road.
Half Moon offers hoist access at $14 a day for boats averaging 19 feet, and offers local users overnight docking at 50 cents a foot. Visiting users who come in off the water can dock overnight for $1 a foot. Half Moon offers diesel and non-ethanol fuels, live shrimp and assorted frozen bait.
At Sunbury, a public ramp is available for free access, though it does not have a hoist like Yellow Bluff and Half Moon. Boaters can also dock overnight for a $1.75 fee, and users can buy gas or diesel fuel, ice and bait.
Liberty County boaters should have an additional option in the future when the county completes planning, development and construction of a public marina on Japonica Drive at Colonel’s Island. The county bought the land in April 2008 from J. Noel Osteen Jr. and Steve C. Sikes at a cost of $1.54 million, County Administrator Joey Brown said.
“The county was originally approached by the Department of Natural Resources in an effort to identify possible sites for a boat launch facility, realizing that most acceptable sites were being seized for development,” Brown said. “DNR has indicated their willingness to participate in the construction with the utilization of federal funds when project specifics are established.”
While the county has examined preliminary drawings for the boat hoist with the DNR, officials haven’t engaged any formal construction documents for the marina, nor have a budget or operational plan been established for property improvements. Funds to pay for the property came from a loan that $1.5 million in current SPLOST funds has been budgeted to cover, and Brown said the county already has repaid roughly half that amount.
Brown said the county envisions a staffed marina that would include temporary moorings and, depending on their availability elsewhere, storage and fuel options may be added down the line.