Fishing resources

Bibb County leaders visit Macon’s ‘untapped resources’ as Cliffview Lake takes shape

Liz Fabian

CCJ

A great gray heron took flight from the shallow edge of a West Bibb County pond as county leaders approached two pickup trucks.

For most of the county commissioners, this was a tour of uncharted territory into somewhat secret landscapes on Bibb County lands.

Macon-Bibb County Mayor Lester Miller recently scheduled a commission field trip to experience secluded scenic views of county-owned property off Houston Avenue and Lake Tobesofkee duck ponds.

“You don’t feel like you’re in Macon,” Miller said of the ponds, as county commissioners marveled at the beautiful scenery where a lone fisherman seemed surprised to have all this company.

The Duck Ponds are a hidden gem, with barely a mention on the county’s Lake Tobesofkee website. On the online map it is only listed as Tobesofkee Recreation Area.

In the 1100 block of Bonner Gilbert Road, not far from the Monroe County line on Thomaston Road, a brown sign reads “Lake Tobesofkee Area ‘E’ or Duck Ponds Tobesofkee Recreation area.”

A smaller sign advises visitors that “Use of the lake requires an admission or permit”, which can be purchased at the other closed lake entrances at Claystone, Sandy Beach, and Lake Arrowhead. During the commission’s visit, rangers in vehicles patrolled the winding trails around finger-shaped ponds that connect to ‘Big Water’ lake north of Lower Thomaston Road near the Beaver Oaks subdivision. .

On the county’s list of surplus properties that could be sold, the mayor discovered the county’s parcel at 8470 Rock Mill Road, which provides access to the ponds.

Miller removed the property from the surplus list. Online tax records show it’s valued at more than $560,000 for 202 acres, but the mayor said “the area of ​​the property is off” but didn’t know the exact size of the top of his head.

He considers these ponds “a valuable asset” and an “untapped resource”, although he did not mention any pending plans for the area.

Trip Advisor ranks Duck Ponds 24th on its list of 47 things to do in Macon.

In a 2015 post on the travel site, contributor Lizzey Riley wrote about the “secret fishing lake”.

“The Duck Ponds provide a secluded area for fishing, kayaking and canoeing. It’s also just a nice spot to sit and have a picnic by the water. On one side of the ponds there is an eagle’s nest and eagles are often seen flying in the area.

No eagles were spotted when visiting the county, and the duck ponds were oddly devoid of ducks.

Miller pointed out to commissioners that the quiet waterways and creek leading to the lake are only seven miles from I-475.

The commissioners were won over by the beauty of the land.

“It’s beautiful,” was a common comment as others admitted they never knew this place existed.

Miller says he thinks it was once used as part of the lake’s fish hatchery.

Cliffview Lake works funded by SPLOST

As future plans for the remote duck ponds evolve, Miller has taken steps to beautify another natural setting closer to the heart of the city. The Cliffview Lake property, surrounded by homes off Houston Avenue, has been idle since the county purchased it in 2004.

Former Macon Mayor C. Jack Ellis initiated the purchase of nearly 21 acres of private land under Gov. Roy Barnes’ Georgia Greenspace Trust, which sought to preserve 20% of the land in each of Georgia’s counties. State.

Ellis said he used to travel around the city when he was on duty and was surprised to discover a lake hidden by woods between Antioch Road, Robert Henry Street and Cliffview Drive.

Ellis meets landlord Jimmy Woodard, who during one of their conversations suggests the city buy the land.

“It’s a spring-fed lake, it’s a natural lake, it’s not man-made, and I’m getting old and I want to sell it all,” Ellis Woodard said.

For $52,000, the City of Macon purchased the land to provide a bit of nature near downtown.

“I just thought it was so important because it would give families an opportunity to go picnicking, to fish, to sit under a tree and read a book and have an open space. Having green spaces to walk around and do nothing, if they didn’t want to,” Ellis recently told The Macon Newsroom.

He envisioned a mini-park on the Amerson River with walking trails and a place to fish.

At the time, the town was “running steam” financially, and Ellis left office with no further work done.

In 2016, Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert took the commissioners on a field trip to a secluded location a block from Broadway, but no plan was formulated to make better use of the land.

Miller recently used $100,000 from the Blight Elimination Revolving Loan Fund to purchase the Woodard heir’s remaining home on 1.77 acres on the property. The county agreed to a $750-a-month lease to give the former landlord time to secure nearby accommodations and remove her belongings.

In August, county commissioners approved up to $1.9 million in SPLOST funds to acquire nearby property and improve the park.

As commissioners loaded up with insect repellent to board golf carts and utility vehicles for the recent tour, County Manager Keith Moffett spoke about plans for Cliffview Lake Park.

“Our goal is a passive zone,” Moffett said. “It’s a walking area that could be hiking trails, things of that nature. Because of the concrete and all that, I don’t plan on doing sidewalks around here. Make it a nature trail.

Moffett said they are looking at the amount of fencing to put up due to the deep cliff that drops onto the property behind neighboring homes.

SPLOST project manager Clay Murphey said the property was used as an old borrow pit where soil was excavated and removed.

Mayor Pro Tem Seth Clark led the entourage off newly cleared trails, through cobwebs and up a hill to get a better vantage point of the lake and its soaring cliffs.

Seeing an empty pool at the old Woodard Place, Clark jokingly asked the mayor if the county had enough lifeguards to staff it.

Miller said he envisions 4-H and Boy Scout youth touring the country and enjoying this oasis of natural beauty just outside of downtown.

Discarded beer cans near the lake show that the hidden hideout and fishing hole is not a total secret.

A bass jumped out of the water as the mayor discussed with commissioners plans for a possible lodge and rustic campsites.

During the commission’s previous tour in 2016, the then facilities manager said there were water and sewer lines running through the grounds, which could make future toilets possible.

Nearly 20 years after investing in Georgia’s green spaces, Cliffview Lake Park is taking shape, which Ellis likes.

“I’m glad Mayor Miller prioritized doing this because it’s for the people,” Ellis said. “And it just sat there and we could have cleaned it up a long time ago and people could have enjoyed it all those years ago.”

Senior Civic Journalism Researcher Liz Jarvis Fabian covers government entities in Macon-Bibb County and can be reached at fabian_lj@mercer.edu or 478-957-2829.