Four of Georgia State Parks’ lodges and resorts are or soon will be under new management, according to State Parks Director Becky Kelley.
“If you are staying at a lodge on June 30, you should see no difference on July 1,” said Kelley, who noted that Coral Hospitality has managed the resort at Georgia Veterans State Park near Cordele since 2005 through the North Georgia Mountain Authority. “Coral Hospitality began managing the lodges at Unicoi State Park (near Helen) and Amicalola State Park (near Dahlonega) about six months ago. They will take over management of the lodges at Little Ocmulgee State Park (near Helena) and George T. Bagby State Park (near Fort Gaines) beginning July 1. It should be a seamless transition.”
Public Affairs Coordinator Kim Hatcher said the park system, which includes 63 state parks and historic sites, is a division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, she said.
In addition to the above-named lodges, she said the state has resort accommodations on Sapelo Island Reserve. She said Reynolds Mansion, which requires a minimum two-night reservation of at least 16 adults, will continue to be managed by the DNR.
Bill Donohue, executive director of the NGMA, said the other lodges are or soon will be managed by the NGMA, which also is a division of DNR. He said the NGMA hired Coral Hospitality, a third-party contractor, to manage the lodges.
Coral Hospitality already manages Lake Blackshear Resort & Golf Club at Georgia Veterans State Park and the state-owned Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa near Young Harris, he said. Brasstown Valley is not a state park, but it is on state-owned land in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Donohue described Coral Hospitality as a full-service hospitality management company that specializes in resorts, hotels and residential communities. He said that when the NGMA recently turned the management of Amicalola’s lodge over to Coral, 70 of its 71 employees continued working there. He expects a similar transition for the other lodges.
“Most employees will stay with the same lodge doing the same job and serving the same customers with the same pay,” said Donohue, explaining that Coral will manage the lodge, cabins, food and beverage, banquet and conference facilities, as well as most recreational services at those parks. “If prices change, it would only be if values or service greatly improves. Hopefully, we’ll be renovating all the lodges with a change-out of bedding, new flat-screen TVs — basically, modernizing the rooms.”
He said NGMA’s intent is to operate the lodges as private enterprises with goals of making a profit. He added that the lodges at Ocmulgee and Bagby were losing money. By tracking expenses, bringing in technical expertise and re-investing savings in the lodges, he hopes to do a better job at managing those lodges. If they’re not able to turn a profit, he hopes to at least improve those lodges’ overall sustainability.
“If we’re successful, these parks will continue to be a part of the state,” he said. “We understand (Ocmulgee and Bagby) are not located in economically vibrant regions of the state, (but) we want to improve, or at least reduce, the state’s loss on its investment.”
Kelley said that those parks with golf courses also will see a management change. The courses, which have been managed by a third party, once again will be the direct responsibility of park system, she said.
“We want to encourage people to get outdoors,” Kelley said. “We also want to enhance our guests’ experiences (at lodges) with minimum costs (to guests and the state). We’re really proud of Georgia’s parks and the transition we’re making.”
For more information about Georgia State Parks, go to www.gastateparks.org.