A plan by Butts County Sheriff Gary Long to open a youth summer camp facility got a boost last month with the donation of nearly two dozen acres of land off Lee Maddox Road.
State Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, and local businessman Ben Dover said the property was donated to the Butts County Sheriff’s Office through their foundations — the Jones Family Foundation and the Dover Family Fund Foundation. Jones and Dover said they acquired the land, which totals about 33 acres, in 2008.
The initial donation of 23 acres for the camp was made about two weeks ago but the pair said because of tax covenants the remaining acreage will be donated at a later date, though the camp will have full use of the property at the outset.
Long said he plans for the camp to be operated by a foundation, which would also eventually own the property and keep the camp in operation no matter who may later serve as sheriff. He said it will be modeled on the CHAMPS camps the sheriff’s office already holds each summer for students in second- through fifth-grades, but would be able to house middle school and high school students for weeklong camps.
Long said the plan is to build two dormitory structures, one for boys and one for girls, linked by a central cafeteria. He also plans activity structures like a ropes course, obstacle course and rock climbing wall.
Jones and Dover said they would assist in setting up the camp’s operating foundation.
“Without Burt and Ben there is no possible way this could come to pass,” Long said.
Jones said he and Dover had no plans for the land and after learning of Long’s plan for a perpetual summer camp thought it would be ideal for the project. Dover noted it is not far from Interstate 75 and the High Falls area, and is isolated and buffered enough that camp activities won’t affect neighbors.
Dover said he envisions the camp being an asset to Butts County and its youth. “If they don’t get involved in something, they may get involved in something else that’s not good for them,” he said.
Long said building the camp will be a slow process but he already has some commitments of in-kind labor to begin the process and is hoping more donations begin coming in. He said he’s hoping to get the camp in operation by next summer.
“It’s his dream and his vision,” Jones said of Long’s plan. “And it’s a good one. I think it’s good we’re going to put it into a board-run foundation where community leaders can get involved in shaping it.”