The Summerville News -- A group that was formed to help James H. "Sloppy" Floyd State Park has helped beautify what many people, not only in Chattooga County, but across the Southeast consider the prettiest park in the State of Georgia. The Friends of Sloppy Floyd State Park was formed to help the local state park and its programs, improvement, beautification and service.
The Friends of Sloppy Floyd State Park began in 2008 and is a chapter of the Georgia Friends of State Parks and Historical Sites. "Most state parks have a chapter but not all," Ken Tribble said. Bill Moll began the group.
Money was available through the annual Twisted Ankle Run held at the park and it was not going anywhere so Bill approached the state group and asked if they could begin a chapter here so there would be a fiscal agent to deal with that money, Tribble added. They held an organizational meeting at the Civic Center and elected officers.
"Since 2010 the Friends group has pumped around 20,000 directly into the park," President Louise Helton said. After that $20,000 they have also donated another $2,000 for movies to be shown at the park's Movie Night, toner for printer, etc. and still another $1,500 for audio/visual equipment for the park's use.
With help from the local Friends group, Sloppy Floyd State Park was able to buy $3,000 in native plants; $3,500 in Christmas light displays;$3,000 in fish; $600 movies; $2,500 in repairs and supplies; campground restroom renovations and donated facilities - $7,500 and counting plus the new pioneer restrooms.
"We put a lot of money from the Friends group into developing the fishery here," Will Wagner, Park Manager said. "Which is good, because of the fact that the Park and the Friends group is willing to do all this stuff we get help from other groups to help with the fish."
Georgia Fishery personnel from Calhoun were there last week to check on the health of fish in the lake and they donate time and expertise to help the local state park maintain healthy fish.
"Those are major expenses that are matched with their help," Wagner added.
"Since I have been involved and was elected president in 2011, I have seen so many people using the park and knowing about it," Mrs. Helton added. "That is my sole purpose, to get people to come out here and use this park."
She added that there were other things she would like the Friends group to do and they are working toward those.
Wagner said the Friends of Sloppy Floyd State Park have been "a huge help."
"Basically the way the budget is laid out at this point for the parks is to upkeep what we already have and nothing more," Wagner said.
"To have the Friends group willing and engaged in the park as well as a lot of monetary support we have been able to do all the festivals we did last year, beautification projects and we were just on the lake looking at the fish and they are much healthier than they were."
He said not just from a festival standpoint, but from a management standpoint we have taken a lot of the invasive plants out of the park and replaced them with native species.
"The Friends group has been a major help," Wagner added.
The park has put out 10 American chestnut trees as part of the American Chestnut Restoration Project from the American Chestnut Foundation in Virginia.
"We are the only park that I know of that has planted some chestnuts," Wagner said.
The Friends have around 20 people that attend meetings that are held monthly at the park and welcome others that want to help in improving and helping James H. "Sloppy" Floyd State Park.
At the last Twisted Ankle run held at the park the group had some 40 members attend to help.
Tribble said that Redmond sent a full contingent of EMS to the Twisted Ankle, the County Rescue Squad sent a full contingent and a couple dozen other civilian volunteers.
The Twisted Ankle was held in May. A Cruise-In was held on March 17 and a movie will be shown later and in October the bluegrass festival is planned. Outdoor Adventure Day is planned for September.
"The biggest users of this park are fisherman and hikers," Mrs.Helton added. "A lot of families bring their children out here."
"Our biggest users are the campers," Wagner said. "For the past three months there have been over 100 people in that campground. On a busy day fishing, you have 30 to 40 fisherman out here. That actually is daily."
The new canoes and kayaks at the park have also proven popular with park users.
Campers tell the local staff at the park that Sloppy Floyd State Park is one of the very cleanest parks.
"We are like a hidden gem, tucked off the Interstate," Wagner said.
"People like the family-oriented park and campgrounds."
Mrs. Helton said a lot of people come from Cobb County, Gwinnett County and Atlanta.
The Friends just finished the Pioneer Campsite bathrooms.
"We are fixing to do all the trash can holders because they are gotten into by raccoons and other vermin," Tribble added. The group also has to get approval from the State Department of Natural Resources when they think about undertaking a project. "He (Wagner) has a very sophisticated plan that he is supposed to be following and we have to follow that plan, also," Tribble explained. "We follow a business plan that hopefully will make parks self-sustainable," Wagner added. "There is a uniformity that people look for in all state parks. They know what to expect."
The bathrooms just completed by the Friends group were overseen by engineers and construction by the DNR which saved them a lot of money.
"We did this for half of what it would cost at a private campground," Wagner said.
"We want to thank The Summerville News and the local radio station for help in advertising our events and Rep. Barbara Reece and Jason Winters for their help," Mrs. Helton said.
"We get a lot of support," Tribble said.
Tribble and Mrs. Helton praised Wagner for the job he is doing and the festivals he brought to the park.
The Friends have two main ways to raise money. One is the funds from the Twisted Ankle Run, which is the major local one and the other from the Park Pass or parking fees.
"The Friends try to do everything they can to get people into the park through the various promotions and support him with that and that revenue from the Park passes comes into the park," Tribble added. "That is money that is sent to Atlanta but the local park gets credit for it and it is sent back."
Next on the schedule at the Park is the Junior Ranger Camp July 23 through July 27 at the park.
The next Movie Night has not been scheduled.
Outdoor Adventure Day is scheduled in September and the bluegrass festival is planned for October.
The park also plans a bigger and better Christmas lights display.
"Last year was the first time we had done that," Mrs. Helton added.
Whatever the planned improvements, the Friends of Sloppy Floyd State Park will be there to help.
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*Photography is courtesy of Ken Tribble, Friends of Sloppy Floyd Treasurer