Camp Pine Acres Retreat to offer overnight-lodging opportunities

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Referred to as a “multifaceted playground,” Camp Pine Acres Retreat is gearing up to start taking reservations in early 2019. Acquiring the 210-acre property in June, Bartow County government is leasing the venue for five years at no charge from the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

“Pine Acres is a true gift to Bartow County, and I’m thrilled and excited to have some part in developing it,” said Ellen Archer, executive director of Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau, which is operating Camp Pine Acres along with Bartow County Parks and Recreation Department. “Now, finally, there will be opportunities for overnight lodging on Lake Allatoona.

“It is a multifaceted playground that will have year-round appeal, especially to the growing number of people drawn to the outdoor lifestyle. We will be marketing Pine Acres to the general public it’s already in the Cartersville-Bartow County Visitor Guide but also doing targeted group marketing to reunions, church groups, athletic teams, associations and corporations.”

Previously leased by Girl Scouts of Atlanta, Camp Pine Acres Retreat is situated at 3963 Bartow Carver Road S.E. in Acworth, beside another property the local CVB is managing George Washington Carver Park. 

“The county became aware in late 2017 that the Girl Scouts of Atlanta were not wanting to renew their lease of the 100-plus acre Camp Pine Acres with the Corps,” Bartow County Administrator Peter Olson said. “They own three other camps, and they wanted to spend their dollars on those properties. We knew the Corps had a policy of no longer making lease arrangements with nonprofits and that they would only allow the county to take over the lease or require the Girl Scouts to take the property back to nature; that is, demolish all structures and replant trees, etc. We were familiar with this process because we took over the lease from the Cherokee Presbytery for Camp Cherokee on Wilderness Camp in 2017. 

“We looked at the Pine Acres property, and it was a great property over 100 acres on the lake with campgrounds, cabins, a nice central dining hall and other features. It was immediately adjacent to the George Washington Carver Park we already lease [from] the Corps, and it had a lot of nice facilities.”

He continued, “We started talking with the Girl Scouts of Atlanta, and they were interested in the transfer, because it would save them the several $100,000 costs of having to return the property to nature. Plus, they had spent over $4.5 million on facilities over the last several years and hated to see all that go to waste. We made an agreement to take over the lease and allowed them to still rent it several weekends a year, so the Girl Scouts will still use it somewhat.”

According to the Bartow County Hospitality Association’s email newsletter, the property’s “history dates back to the 1950s when George Washington Carver Park’s first superintendent, John Atkinson, established a segregated Girl Scout camp on the acreage he subleased from the Georgia State Park system.”

“Prior to the establishment of the Girl Scout camp, George Washington Carver State Park had been the site of a tragic drowning near the fishing dock,” said Keep Bartow Beautiful Executive Director Sheri Henshaw, referring to the first state park in Georgia for black patrons. “The victim could not swim, a disadvantage shared by most African-Americans at that time, since they could not venture into any ‘whites-only’ facilities due to segregation and Jim Crow-era laws. Carver was the first such beach in the Southeast on a major Corps of Engineers lake, and the only such widely available public beach for people of color, with the exception of American Beach in Florida near Jacksonville. Park Founder and first Superintendent John Atkinson was determined to prevent any such future incidents by securing Red Cross training from Rome for the first African-American lifeguards in the region to patrol Carver Beach.

“He then pushed for the establishment of swimming lessons for hundreds of young girls and boys who, for the first time, actually had a place to swim, fish and enjoy water sports and boating activities of all kinds. That led naturally into Scouting as a successfully proven organized program to build young minds and bodies, and create leaders for the future. First, troops were added, with enthusiastic local adult troop leaders providing training for activities, such as archery, hiking and camping, within the existing park from the mid-1950s onward. By 1962, unused acreage from the current lease was subdivided out from Carver and subleased to the Girl Scouts for an official camp, to be run by the Girl Scouts themselves.”

CVB promotional materials state Camp Pine Acres Retreat will feature picnic shelters; cottages; four camping pods; a pool; archery range; hiking and fishing opportunities; archery range; pebble beach; kayak rentals; banquet hall; and three event venues that will accommodate 800 guests.

“The property will be marketed as Camp Pine Acres Retreat, and its amenities will be available to the public, by reservation only, as of Jan. 2, 2019,” Archer said. “There are a handful of groups using some of the facilities of Pine Acres this summer and fall, but with the understanding that there are ongoing renovations for the rest of the year.

“The lodging component will be operated like any other lodging facilities in Bartow County. We will collect sales taxes and hotel motel taxes and will be subject to the same regulations outlined in the Bartow County Hotel Ordinance. Lodging rentals will be for a minimum of two nights and a maximum of 30. There will be no extended stay rentals at Pine Acres.”