New "Walter B. water park" plan progressing


Eleven different construction companies ultimately responded to the county government's "invitation to bid" for the new water park at Walter B. Williams Jr. Park.

The official bids are due March 15, and in the mean time "a mandatory pre-bid meetings will be held on Feb. 27 at the Recreation Center at Walter B. Williams Jr. Park," according to the document.

The initial "rough estimate" for the project was $5 millions, but that was back in 2022. Its actual cost won't be revealed until the county commission votes to accept one of the construction company's bids.

The county government's plan remains the same: Open the park to the public by Memorial Day Weekend 2025. The idea is to provide recreation during the warm-weather months and not lose money at the same time, according to County Manager Carlos Tobar. This is why the county commission is moving forward with the ambitious project, which will very closely mimic the waterpark in Dublin/Laurens County...


Swimming lessons will be offered to the public free of charge between 8 a.m.–10 a.m., according to Tobar, while the lazy river also will be open to senior citizens during this timeframe. Meanwhile, the park will open to the public around 11 a.m. and close around 5 or 6 p.m. Unlike the water park in Dublin, the one here in Baldwin County will include ample lighting. Tobar said that the idea is to rent the aquatic center out to the public for birthday parties and other events after hours.

"(Renting out the facility for private gatherings after it closes to the general public) is something we believe will be a large revenue generator, and we want everyone to know that our goal is to make money," he said. "The (water park in Dublin) turned a profit last year, and we believe that we can, too."

So, why not just build a swimming pool at Walter B. and be done with it?

“(Basic swimming pools) don’t make money," Tobar said. “In our field trips to other facilities and our research, we found that (basic swimming pools) aren’t really popular with the public anymore."

• 1 large swimming pool
• 2 – lazy river
• 3
– splash pad
• 4
– kiddie slide
• 5
– big slide
• 6
– picnic area/pavilion
• 7
– front entrance/concession stand/changing room
– pump house
• 9
– picnic tables and shade umbrellas
• 10
– picnic tables and shade umbrellas
• 11
– Ga. 22 West (just for reference)

The new water park will be constructed along the old Georgia State Prison property, located between Ga. 22 and the Walter B. gymnasium. Two sites originally were considered for the new aquatics facility/water park. One was the old prison farm, which eventually won out, while the other was the area around the old Walter B. Pool, located near the bottom tennis courts. The site of the old prison property offers much more land and built-in parking. Although the new water park by no means will be Six Flags or White Water, there will still be a need for ample parking, said Tobar. The entrance to the new water park will be located directly across from the large existing parking lot at Walter B. that borders Ga. 22.

Macon man Edwin Atkins continues to question the location of the project. Atkins, whose grandfather was a chaplain at the old Georgia State Prison, suggests that there may be cadavers and/or unmarked graves directly under the site of the new water park. So, are there unmarked graves, dating back roughly 100 years, at the water park site?

Well, it depends on who you ask.

County Manager Carlos Tobar says that "it's highly unlikely." Tobar points out how much of the new water park will be located exactly where the old state prison building once stood. How could you bury prisoners underneath a brick building, or why would you bury prisoners right beside a building?"

Tobar added that the county government already has "received environmental clearance and the go-ahead from the (Georgia) Department of Community Affairs."

"There was a big historical building condition assessment report that was commissioned. There's no indication in (the report) that there's anything there," said Tobar, with the "there" meaning human remains.

As an abbreviated history lesson, the Georgia State Prison Farm operated between 1911-1937. The prison building, itself, was a two-story brick building with a large courtyard in the middle.

Pictured above is a satellite photo of the old Georgia State Prison Farm facility, a few years before it was demolished in 2018. For perspective, the road shown in the far right of the pic is Ga. 22.

At the 4,000-acre property, there existed a "white cemetery" and a "black cemetery." The location of the black cemetery has been known for many years and is well-documented, and it's located roughly a half-mile from the old prison building and closer to Ga. 212 and the new Walter B. soccer fields. According to The Georgia Trust, the "Red Hill Prison Cemetery" is situated "on a hill overlooking the 4,000-acre Old State Prison Farm in Milledgeville...Red Hill Prison Cemetery is home to over 600 graves of incarcerated men and women who died at the prison between 1911 and 1936. License plates manufactured on site by the prisoners were used as grave markers for the deceased prisoners, indicating each grave by number, not name. Once the prison closed and moved locations in 1937, these graves were left unattended and neglected."

As for the "white cemetery," well, the "white cemetery" has never been found. Atkins believes there's a possibility that the white prisoners were buried near the water park site. Atkins has brought in cadaver dogs on numerous occasions to sniff around the perimeter of the property. WMAZ/Channel 13 tagged along during one of those occasions, when one of the cadaver dogs "hit" on "20 different sites...


A "hit" doesn't necessarily mean bones and bodies, however. Kerri Gebbler, the owner of the dogs and a nationally-certified K-9 rescue handler, told Baldwin2k that her dogs aren't trained to sniff out merely human bones, but rather "different tissues, hair, blood and an assortment of things." Nevertheless, in the interview with Channel 13, Gebbler was confident that the dogs "hit" on graves.

Atkins says that, at the end of the day, the water park shouldn't be constructed one way or the other, regardless if unmarked graves exist at the site.

"This is too historically important to be the site of a swimming pool. Just because the building is gone doesn't mean that the history is gone,"Atkins said, pointing out how several thousand people died inside the old prison. "I don't know who wants to put their child in a swimming pool on the backs of dead people."

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