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Anderson resort could open floodgates for future development

Molly Hulsey //November 24, 2020//

Anderson resort could open floodgates for future development

Molly Hulsey //November 24, 2020//

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Anderson's Shores of Asbury project will features ADA-accessible treehouses and docks. (Photo/Provided)When Karen Alayne McCullough came into the world, the doctor told her parents she would never walk.

McCullough was born with spina bifida, meaning split spine, but would be climbing trees only a few years later.

Still, the idea of what it would be like to explore her world on wheels alone never left her mind.

Now, as the CEO and president of Lake Hartwell Development Group, McCullough hopes to open up the joys of her adventure-seeking childhood to adults and children alike, including those with disabilities, at one of the country’s only treehouse resorts compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Yurts on the property will offer "glamping" amenities and air conditioning. (Photo/Provided)“It has made me very mindful what people go through and mindful of where we all are, a few seconds away from any of us being handicapped at any point in life,” she said, adding that COVID-19 also has made her more aware of how quickly anyone can be physically impaired. “I don’t take that for granted.”

Local contractors that the group has partnered with have designed a network of ramps leading to the treehouses, while structures closer to the water may be accessed by an elevator of sorts. Kitchenettes and bathrooms in the treehouses will also be designed for guests on wheels.

“We wanted to make it available for the young and the young at heart,” she said. “None of us know what we’re going to face, so we’re just trying to put that in our plans progressively going forward.”

Anderson-based Lake Hartwell Development Group plans to bedeck the grove at their newest recreational park, The Shores of Asbury, with at least 12 treehouses in the future, joining prospects for eight to 10 tiny house cabins, a “glamping” yurt village with heating and air conditioning, floating tents, a raised-bed primitive campsite with WiFi and an RV campground.

These accommodations radiate from the Shores of Asbury’s prime feature: a floating waterpark dubbed “The Aqua Zone.” McCullough said that it will be the only one like it in the state and will accommodate a maximum of 150 guests. Adults and teens will have their own area, resembling a buoyant American Ninja Warrior obstacle course, she said, while visitors of all ages will be able to enjoy waterslides and trampolines.

Renderings of the project's floating water park include a section for adults and another for children. (Photo/Provided)Keeping guests with disabilities in mind, the park’s boat docks will be built with wheelchair lifts for access to the lake’s swimming arena and the park’s lakeside restaurant.

“It doesn’t matter what you have going on in your life,” McCullough said. “There’s healing powers in just getting out in nature.”

A product of the COVID-era, Asbury Grill, as well as the park’s wedding venue, Firefly Landing, will have social distancing and low-contact features built into the blueprints.

The landing’s pavilion will allow couples to say their “I dos” in open air overlooking the lake. Up to 10 guests can sleep in each of the adjoining cabins.

The first phase of construction at the Shores of Asbury is set to begin in spring 2021, she said.

Ground broke on the project, touted as an economic development boon similar to Green Pond Landing and Event Center, on Nov. 10 at 11 a.m. with County Economic Development Director Burriss Nelson present, among other county officials.

Nelson invoked the project’s promise to open the door to additional Lake Hartwell tourism at a county council meeting on Nov. 13. County councilors were presented with the first reading of an ordinance for an agreement allowing Lake Harwell Development Group to sublease the property from the county, which in turn leases the former county park from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Through various iterations, the resort has been at least 13 years in the works, Nelson said, adding that when he first began his career with Anderson County, community members had voiced numerous hopes for tapping into Lake Hartwell’s economic potential through similar projects, especially in the number of shuttered county parks lining the lake’s shoreline.

Graphics posted at the groundbreaking featured waterslides and floating bridges. (Photo/Provided)Lakeside “green zones” can be developed as private residential property, while “red zones,” like the property set aside for the Shores of Asbury, can be developed for niche developments under the auspices of the federal government. He said this project will ferry at least 60 or 70 part-time jobs and a handful of full-time jobs to the county, but perhaps even more importantly, could prime the pump for future development.

“If these guys are successful, they have other investors; there could be the change to have more development at more of the parks,” Nelson told GSA Business Report. “And we are certainly looking forward to that opportunity.”

Lakeside development can lead to an onslaught of challenges, McCullough said, particularly in regard to navigating the regulations set by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Even the potential felling of a sweet gum tree will be accompanied with paperwork and red tape, but with years of lakeside and Tennessee Valley Authority development under her belt, McCullough said she is unfazed by the challenge, especially with county aid in the process.

“We’re stewards of the property,” she said, adding that many developers don’t touch Army Corps of Engineers properties despite their lakeside appeal. “We never really own it, so, you know, that stewardship has high responsibility, and you have to be accountable for everything that happens on that piece of property.”

The Army Corps of Engineers vetted the property and Lake Hartwell Development Group before any headway was made on the project.

 McCullough also said that she and the county will take precautions during the four phases of the project’s construction to stymy overpopulation or crowding around the lake.

Construction on Shores of Asbury has begun at a former county park property. (Photo/Molly Hulsey)“It has been very helpful working with a county that has a handle on the progressiveness of how to move things forward in a timely fashion and how to make things happen,” she said, adding that they worked with her to meet investors’ deadlines and check off accountability measures with the Army Corps of Engineers.

“Anderson County has been nothing but supportive in helping us move this along,” she said.