There is no plan to close Wildcat Park and Landing, say Houston County officials.
Rumors had circulated on social media, starting in September, that the county was planning to close the popular campsite and recreation area to the public. The rumors spread quickly, and soon petitions were circulating at businesses in Caledonia, Hokah and Brownsville.
Almost 500 people signed the petitions, which were presented to the Houston County Board earlier this month. A bemused Jack Miller, the chairman of the board, said he had seen the petitions and heard about the rumors swirling on Facebook.
“I don’t do Facebook,” he said at the county board meeting. “But apparently after we had a meeting discussing Wildcat, I went to have lunch and there was a petition on the lunch-counter and then I guess Facebook exploded.”
Several people had posted in Facebook comments that county officials had told them that there was no truth in the rumor that the county was plotting to close the park. But by then, it was too late to stop the snowballing story.
Miller said he had discussed Wildcat’s revenues at a recent meeting, which is likely where the rumor started, but he never said anything to suggest he supported closing the park, which is located just south of Brownsville.
“We were talking about how to get a handle on expenses we’d incurred at Wildcat,” he said. “The revenue stream and how we might improve that. There’s no plan to close Wildcat.”
Residents from all over Houston County and beyond signed the petition that was presented to the board and added comments warning the county to “keep your hands off” the park and wondered why the county was proceeding with a “senseless” plan.
“Are you nuts?” one signer of the petition wrote to the county.
Houston County leases Wildcat from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at no cost but the county has to pay to maintain the park, said Houston County Auditor Char Meiners.
The county gets revenue from campers at the park but Meiners said in some years the revenue doesn’t cover the county’s costs. In recent years, the county has spent about $300,000 to upgrade bathroom and shower facilities, playground equipment and utility connections to the south end of the park, Meiners said.
Meiners said the hundreds who signed the petition against the phantom plan to close the park at least showed the depth of support for Wildcat.
“At this point, there is absolutely no intent to close the park — in fact, we’re trying to get more seasonal sites there, because they are in high demand,” she said.