Building the Hill
WORDS BY ANGUS MCLEOD
When the 2020 census was published, we learned that Bryan County is now the fastest growing community in Georgia and the sixth fastest growing community in all of the United States. Why is this? While one would be hard-pressed to find a resident who doesn’t sing its praises, this is a lofty statistic worth exploring. So, let’s!
Yes, we have good schools, low crime, and affordable property taxes, but so do many other communities… We don’t offer a lot of jobs, our school board is the largest employer. Richmond Hill is a suburb of the beautiful history-rich Savannah. However, Savannah is not an extremely large city. When you stop and think about it, our communities, to include the City of Richmond Hill, City of Pembroke and all ends of Bryan County, are unique not for an isolated feature, but rather for a myriad of them, all of which come together as naturally as… warm biscuits and butter!
In singling out Richmond Hill, I liken it to a sportsman and outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, consisting of approximately 80,000 acres. 8,000 beautiful acres are owned by the State of Georgia and managed by Georgia Department of Natural Resources as a Wildlife Management Area (WMA). All of the WMA land can be hunted during hunting season. Check with Georgia D.N.R. for rules and regulations. When hunting season is over you can hike, bike, and explore this 8,000-acre expanse until your heart’s content.
Richmond Hill is surrounded by deep water rivers and creeks on three sides, offering 130-plus miles of navigable waters. Bordering the rivers are thousands of acres of saltwater marshes. The saltwater estuaries are breeding grounds for fish, shrimp, crab, oysters, and countless other species of marine life. Today, the rivers and marshes contribute to some of the best recreational fishing, shrimping, and crabbing on the East Coast. Back in 1925, the natural beauty was captivating enough to attract automotive pioneer Henry Ford. He and his wife Clara established their winter home here. They eventually purchased around 70,000 acres, playing a major role in agriculture, industry, and education, earning the community the name, “The town Henry Ford built.”
Richmond Hill has three public marinas, two public fishing piers, and two public boat ramps. Two of the marinas offer marine fuel, live bait, and dockage. Ft. McAllister Marina is the third largest in Georgia. Its hoist can lift up to a 40-foot boat. The boat ramps and marinas give residents direct access to our rivers, beaches, barrier islands, and the Atlantic Ocean. The two public fishing piers provide free access to the wonders of our saltwater resources. Upkeep and growth of these amenities by Bryan County is outstanding – the building of additional boat ramps, fishing piers, hiking trails, and a pavilion is ongoing at the old Fisherman’s Co-op.
Fort McAllister State Park is a great source of pride and enjoyment – visited both by residents and tourists. Children and adults of all ages marvel at the history that comes alive as they explore the Civil War Fort, with its impressively preserved Confederate earthworks, cannons, bullet-proof shelters, and protective palisades, along with a museum and an interpretation center. Campgrounds are available, as well as cabins for those who prefer to enjoy the great outdoors by day and a cozy indoor bed by night. A boat ramp is also conveniently available because, on the off-chance that you have not yet noticed, Richmond Hill residents and guests just cannot stay off the water for very long!
35-acre JF Gregory Park is located behind Richmond Hill City Hall and the police station with a convention center, Wetlands Center, covered pavilion, a 5-acre fish pond and a 3.5-mile nature trail. The nature trail travels along old rice dikes built to control the water flow in to and out of a rice field. The dike borders Sterling Creek on the North, and if you are quiet and observant you may see any number of birds and animals that are indigenous to Coastal Georgia.
A public shooting range on Kilkenny Road allows visitors to fire any gun in their arsenals, short of a machine guns (and they’re pretty adamant about this) for practicing purposes. The shooting range is located on Georgia Wildlife Management Land and is managed by Georgia D.N.R.
Devaul Henderson Park is a gem. The recreation park is located off of Highway 144 at Captain Matthew Freeman Drive. This park has it all. Baseball and softball fields, tennis courts, turf soccer / football fields, a brand new gymnasium, public fishing, and a hiking trail along Green Creek. The park also hosts a dog park, enhanced by a pond with a fountain, a separate fenced-in area for smaller furry friends, and a dog bathing platform. Visitors can come, walk, exercise, and show off their pets – or their humans, depending upon which species rules the roost in a particular family.
The Bryan County Recreation Department also has a large park located on Timber Trail, with ball fields, soccer fields, tennis courts, and two basketball gyms.
Richmond Hill has a lot to offer. It is this author’s opinion that our community is the most exemplary in the United States, bar none. The beauty of its natural resources and the ingenuity of its developers throughout history are exceeded only by the friendliness of its people. Most who visit make plans to return, oftentimes indefinitely, hence the explosive growth patterns. Now, when one asks, you, too, can list the reasons why.