Buddy Johnson

CAIRO — The Grady County Tired Creek Lake Authority is moving forward with a plan it believes will help put Tired Creek Lake on the map.

Lake Authority members agreed Thursday morning to move forward with the creation of several committees or “task forces” that will tackle individual functions in developing a unified plan for the development of Tired Creek Lake. Lake consultant Will Butler recommended there be one large committee of about 10-20 members, with three smaller subcommittees that can handle subjects such as branding, collateral and product development.

Members of the Lake Authority were asked to identify individuals in the community who they feel would make suitable committee members.

Among the names suggested by County Administrator Buddy Johnson for the committee were county Commissioner June Knight, whose district encompasses the lake, and citizen Richard Jordan, who has been critical in the past of many of the county’s decisions regarding the lake.

The purpose of the committee would be to collect a diversity of viewpoints to reach decisions that would then be approved by the Lake Authority and then the Board of Commissioners.

“Put these people in place and let’s put them to work and get their ideas whether they’re good or bad or indifferent,” Johnson said.

Much of the work done to promote the lake over the past several months has been handled by Johnson, Butler and lake director Mike Binion, the county administrator said, but that job can no longer be done by three men alone.

“This is not a heavy lift,” Butler said. “It’s just a matter of getting everybody involved for a few months and then we’ll come out with a plan.”

Nearby Leon County, Florida has adopted a regional tourism strategy where assets located within a one- to two-hour drive are promoted as a draw to Tallahassee. Leon County will spend its own money to market the lake and other Grady County assets at no cost to Grady County, but local officials have to decide what they wish to emphasize and how it should be marketed.

In developing this strategy, Leon County officials identified multiple assets located in immediate neighboring counties, but quickly found that Grady County “was like a wedge that was missing,” Butler said.

To better display Grady County’s assets, Butler led a tour of the county to Leon County officials last month, which included a trip on the lake. Butler said the out of town visitors were “blown away” by how much there is to do in Grady County that isn’t well-known in Tallahassee.

“We are still effectively invisible to most of the rest of the world,” Butler said.

If the lake is to be a success, Butler said new ideas, such as a slogan which can be used to market it to the public, need to be put forward.

Cairo-Grady County Chamber of Commerce Director Trey Gainous demonstrated the value of successful marketing by asking those in attendance to recall the campaign slogan used by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016. When none were able to answer correctly, Gainous then asked those in attendance to recall Donald Trump’s 2016 slogan, “Make America Great Again,” which was done with little difficulty.

“Four words changed the entire direction of this nation,” Gainous said.

Creating a slogan isn’t the only marketing technique Butler suggested. The lake consultant also proposed the idea of possibly rebranding the lake, or at least vetting the current name to ensure it sounds attractive to visitors.

Incoming developers will likely wish to at least brand their section of the lake with a name of its own, Johnson said.

If the lake were to be renamed, Butler said it could be done in a way that would still pay homage to the former Tired Creek.

Butler said the ultimate goal of the project is to attract development and activity to the lake in order to produce a steady stream of revenue to support growth for public services for the community.

“That’s the gift that keeps on giving if we can ever get the match to start the fire to make that happen,” he said.

One quick way to begin generating revenue at the lake is the development of an RV park. Johnson cautioned that those revenues won’t be enough to pay off the lake’s debt, but it can be expected to produce money that can then be used for other projects. On top of that, Butler said the park would generate additional visibility for the area and can bring in different people to see the lake.

Johnson said the University of Georgia Archway Partnership has offered to draw up plans for such a park at minimal cost to the county.

The RV park concept is just the first phase of what the county can afford to do, Johnson said. Additional work with Archway and other local groups such as Kiwanis Club and Boy Scouts can be done to construct trails, develop primitive camping sites, place kiosks and bring in kayaks.

All of those ideas are part of an overall plan to attract a broader audience to the lake than just those looking to fish.

“We have to put things in place to make it attractive,” Johnson said.

Butler said once the lake is a known commodity it can act as a “magnet” to draw people to Grady County. Once people are in the area, they can learn about the county’s other assets.

When people begin to understand all of the things the county has to offer, Butler said it’s not outrageous to believe that they might eventually want to settle down near Cairo — but only if the community is willing to put in the work.

“Nobody is going to come save us,” Butler said. “We’ve got to save ourselves.”

The Lake Authority will next meet Wednesday, Feb. 12 at 9 a.m.

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