Monthly Archives: September 2022

What’s New

What's New 2021

Columbia County is the ninth fastest-growing county in the state and number 196 nationwide.

High quality of life, low crime rate, award-winning school system and lots of parks and greenways — no wonder people like to call Columbia County home.

“We focus on quality of life,” says Scott Johnson, the county manager. “Columbia County is a great secret, but it’s really no longer a secret.”

Clearly not, as people keep moving to the county year after year after year.

“Columbia County has had double digit census increases since 1950,” Johnson says.

According to the most recent U.S. Census data and, Columbia County’s estimated population in 2022 is 164,625 with a growth rate of 1.63% in the past year. Columbia County’s estimated population in 2021 was 161,988.

The estimated population of Grovetown is 16,734 in 2022, according to the city website, with a growth rate of 2.72%, and 16,566 in 2021. Harlem’s estimated population in 2022 is 3,751, with a growth rate of 2.46%, and 3,591 in 2021.

According to, Columbia County is the ninth fastest-growing county in the state (the top eight counties are in the metro Atlanta area) and number 196 among all counties nationwide.

Good government also attracts people to the area. “Columbia County just lowered its millage rate to the lowest rate it’s had since 1989,” Johnson says.

In August, the Board of Commissioners approved an overall 2022 millage rate of 8.618. The millage is the rate per $1,000 of property value.

To keep pace with the population increase, more homes and businesses are sprouting up in the county as well.

“By all accounts, the economy in Columbia County is thriving,” says Robbie Bennett, executive director of the Development Authority of Columbia County. “Our biggest challenge is the availability of housing to bring people into the community.”

From August 1, 2021 through August 15, 2022, Columbia County issued 1,039 residential building permits and 72 commercial building permits for new construction. From August 1, 2020 through August 15, 2021, the county issued 997 residential building permits and 82 commercial building permits.

From August 1, 2021 through August 15, 2022, Harlem issued 21 residential building permits but no commercial building permits. Harlem issued 64 residential building permits, but no commercial building permits, from August 1, 2020 through August 15, 2021.

“Permit issuance was down due to the availability of buildable lots,” says Debra Moore, the Harlem city manager. “We should see an increase in the residential permits with Hickory Woods coming online in (September) and Heritage Ridge in the coming year.”

Grovetown issued 313 residential building permits and four commercial building permits from August 1, 2021 through August 15, 2022. The city issued 260 residential building permits and seven commercial building permits from August 1, 2020 through August 15, 2021.

“We are our own city, and being a member of the Grovetown community means something,” says Ronald Kurtz, the city’s director of Planning and Community Development. “It has a strategic location between Augusta and the rest of Columbia County. Frequently, professionals have ties to both of these communities.”

In addition, Kurtz says, “We are proactive in developing the type of growth we want to see.”

Johnson believes that newcomers have the same expectations for amenities in Columbia County that they had in their previous homes.

“The key is to stay true to your roots and to your plan,” he says. “We welcome new ideas, but not change just for the sake of change.”

By Leigh Howard

Hometown Feel

What's New 2021

Development in new and existing neighborhoods offers a sense of community.

Home construction in Columbia County is not letting up, and people keep moving into new or expanding existing neighborhoods.

“Most people in Columbia County welcome the growth, but they’re still comfortable with the hometown feel we have,” says Scott Johnson, the county manager.

He says the commissioners have “a good sense of the residential development needed in the county,” and they use Vision 2035, the county’s master plan for growth and development, as their guide.

The county tries not to get too much density in any area, he adds, and the county also tries to install the necessary infrastructure ahead of development.

“We require developers to build a lot of their own infrastructure to county specs and donate it to the county. Then we maintain it for them,” Johnson says.

Scott Sterling, the county Planning Services director, says the highest residential growth areas in the county include the Gateway area, Riverwood and William Few parkways and Harlem.

Home construction is continuing in neighborhoods such as Tillery Park on Baker Place Road, Greenpoint in Harlem, Misty Meadows and Kelarie on Baker Place Road and William Few Parkway, Whispering Pines and Highland Lakes on William Few Parkway, Wrights Farm on Wrightsboro Road and Jackson Heights on Old South Belair Road.

Greenpoint is a 1,200-acre master-planned community that eventually will stretch from Interstate-20 south to the new Harlem Middle School, where the first phases have been constructed on 230 acres.

In the Dublin Village section of Kelarie, two- and three-bedroom ranch-style townhomes are scheduled for completion in December.

Whispering Pines, a 350-acre community in Evans, has more than 50 homes in various stages of construction.

A planned community of 160 homes on a former dairy farm, Jackson Heights in Grovetown features green space, mature pecan trees, alley garage entrances and a community pond.

In Evans, The Heron at River Island, an apartment complex off of Blackstone Camp Road, has opened. A mixed-use development project also has started in The Plaza at Evans Towne Center. In addition to six four-story apartment buildings totaling 301 residential units, the development will include ground-level retail stores, which are under construction.

In Harlem, home construction in Cornerstone III & IV is ongoing. “Construction in Section IV is just starting and will consist of 95 single-family homes,” says Debra Moore, city manager.

Construction in Amesbury Station, a townhouse development of 95 units on North Louisville Road, also is continuing.

The city also was working on a punch list of items to get final plat approval for Hickory Woods, a development of 112 single-family homes at Sawdust Road and North Fairview Drive, in late summer. Moore says the plan is expected to be approved and construction could begin in early fall.

In addition, the city is working on construction plans for Heritage Ridge, a mixed-use development on North Louisville Street that will include three commercial buildings and 72 townhomes.

Residential development is continuing in the city of Grovetown as well.

Site work is underway at Rivercrest Townhomes, a new 45-unit development on Newmantown Road across from Liberty Park in Grovetown. Pending approval of the final plan, construction could begin in the next six to 12 months.

Section II of Deer Hollow off of Wrightsboro Road is nearing completion. This section includes 110 single-family homes, and construction will begin shortly on 54 more homes in Deer Hollow.

Construction also is continuing on 103 new townhomes in Caroleton off of Harlem Grovetown Road and 134 units in Brighton Park Apartments off of Horizon South Parkway.

“Approvals and permits have been issued at a pretty steady rate,” says Ronald Kurtz, director of Planning and Community Development.

Shop Talk

What's New 2021

The growing number of new businesses in Columbia County speaks volumes.

With medical, government, cyber and energy services, Columbia County and the surrounding areas are able to withstand any downturns to the economy relatively well.

However, from retail to industrial development, the county’s business outlook is trending upward, and that helps local merchants and residents.

Scott Johnson, the county manager, says bringing new businesses to the area enhances the county tax base.

“As our community grows, we want to make sure we keep our shopping dollars in the county because we benefit from that,” he says. “We have lowered the millage rate six times in seven years because the economy is continuing to grow. More businesses puts less demand on individual property owners.”

Robbie Bennett, executive director the Development Authority of Columbia County, sees additional benefits to the business climate. “Quality of life, quality of place is important,” he says. “We want Columbia County residents to want to be in Columbia County.”

From one end of the county to the other, businesses of every variety have opened their doors in new or existing real estate.

In Martinez, Pinnacle Bank opened on Furys Ferry Road in late February. Another branch, which could open by the end of the year, is under construction in Grovetown at the intersection of Lewiston Road and Autumn Trail.

On Furys Ferry Road, Dave’s Appliance Warehouse opened this summer, and Wine & Design opened for sip and paint activities in September. Site work is underway at the intersection of Furys Ferry Road and Inverness Way and Park Lane for construction of a one-story, three-unit commercial building that D.C. Lawrence Real Estate and two other tenants will occupy.

The 41,000-square-foot former Bi-Lo at the corner of Columbia and Belair roads has been divided into two spaces, and Harbor Freight, which carries hardware items, opened in the spring in a 15,000-square-foot space in the building.

The county also has received applications from people on River Watch Parkway to convert their houses to professional properties. “Over time, it will transform into a more professional corridor,” Johnson says.

In Evans, Amazing Lash Studio opened in The Legacy Building on North Belair Road in June.

Cheers Wine & Spirits opened in a newly constructed building at the corner of Evans to Locks and Furys Ferry roads in September. Also on Evans to Locks Road, site work has started for the expansion of Paws in Paradise.

Gas World, a locally owned gas station and convenience store chain, is under construction at the corner of Old Evans Road and Martinez Boulevard.

The long-awaited mixed-use development in The Plaza at Evans Towne Center, which will feature retail, office and residential space, is under construction. Nailed It, a DIY craft studio, is moving into the Meybohm Building soon.

Located at the corner of Ronald Reagan Drive and North Belair Road, a mixed-use retail center called Evans Society Center is under construction. The center has two buildings, which will total 10,000 square feet.

Buff City Soap, a national handmade soap company with an in-store makery, opened in Mullins Crossing in September.

The adjacent Mullins Colony is seeing activity as well. Beverage Outlet is building a 20,000-square-foot discount liquor store next to Belk. Brazilian Wax and Spa also opened in Mullins Colony earlier this year.

Washington Road in Evans has some new faces as well. Lapels Cleaners moved into the former Brickle’s Cleaners site in April, and CBD store Purple Bloomz opened in August. Take 5 Oil Change opened in a new Washington Road building in late summer.

In addition, Queensborough Bank & Trust on Washington Road is expanding onto adjacent property that was the site of Tip Top Taps.

Eclipse at Riverwood is slated to open this fall just outside of Riverwood Plantation on Washington Road. This mixed-used development will include the 85,000-square-foot Eclipse Storage and another building with 9,000 square feet of retail space.

Storage Hotel recently opened in Grovetown near Columbia County Fairgrounds as well. In the Gateway area, developers broke ground in May on an extended-stay TownePlace Suites by Marriott and a midrange Fairfield by Marriott, which will share the same building. They will be built next to Home2Suites.

Other new businesses that have opened in the past year include Southern Dance Company and Light Design Inc. in Harlem and Sparkle Car Wash in the city of Grovetown.

“Small businesses are the backbone of Columbia County,” says Robbie Bennett, executive director of the Development Authority of Columbia County. “They represent nearly 80 to 85 percent of the employment base of the county. A small business can be a business of up to 500 employees, but 80 to 85 percent of employees that work in the county work for a business that employs less than 20 people.”

However, large industries are thriving as well. In White Oak Business Park off of Appling Harlem Road, construction will begin soon on a new 104,000-square-foot spec building. Site plans were being finalized in early September, and construction was expected to start within a month.

Bennett says White Oak, which will be five years old in December, has more than 3.4 million square feet of space and 5,500 employees work there.

In addition, he says, 19 or 20 projects are looking actively at White Oak as a future home. Of its nine available spaces, he says, “There are four or five sites where we can put somebody right now.”

Of the other sites, three have been claimed and a building is going up on another one. The projects represent $30 million to $2 billion in capital investments, says Bennett.

GIW held a grand opening for its foundry expansion – its second enlargement since 2014 – in April.

“Industry growth leads to the growth of retail and restaurant offerings and will drive more business to this market,” Bennett says.

He also says that the availability of a strong workforce – locally and regionally – attracts new businesses to the area.

“The county is well-diversified,” Bennett says. “We can get businesses up and running quicky.”

On the Menu

What's New 2021

Eat in or take out, Columbia County is filling up with new restaurants.

Regardless of the type of cuisine that people enjoy, they can find a place in Columbia County to satisfy their cravings. From sweets and snacks to ethnic dishes and American fare, new eateries have made their debut in recent weeks and months.

Whipped Creamery Gourmet Frozen Treats opened a second location in the Centre at Furys Ferry in Martinez in the spring, and to spice things up, Latin food lovers can try Latin Flavor, which opened on River Watch Parkway in August.

Mosh Pit Eats, which serves a side of hard rock and heavy metal music with its sandwiches, salads and such, opened on Old Evans Road in Martinez.

Hibachi Express opened on Washington Road near Bobby Jones Expressway in the former Taco Bell location this summer as well.

When it comes to the restaurant scene, Evans also has gotten a piece of the pie.

For those who like sweet and salty snacks, Mack’s Poppin’ Kettle Corn opened this winter in Publix Plaza on Washington Road.

Roll On In, which offers sushi creations and Asian fusion dishes, and Buzzed Bull Creamery, which serves alcohol-infused ice cream and milkshakes, opened in March at The Plaza at Evans Towne Center.

In early 2023, Goat Kick Coffee Co. is expected to open behind the Performing Arts Center in a new development called Evans Society Center. The shop will anchor one of the two buildings.

“Three or four new restaurants are being discussed in The Plaza and Gateway areas,” says Scott Johnson, the county manager. “Our citizens expect to have shopping and nice restaurants close to home.”

In the meantime, other new food establishments have opened in Evans.

Sinless Sweets, which offers gluten-free, low-carb, sugar-free and vegan desserts, opened in January on Washington Road. Crumbl Cookie also opened in April in Mullins Colony.

Senor Mezcal Mexican Kitchen & Cantina opened on Washington Road near the Evans Walmart in April, and Pizza Central opened its doors on North Belair Road in June. Arie’s Confectionaries, which features full-size and mini cheesecakes, also opened in Evans Town Center in September.

In addition, Yosko Japanese Steakhouse moved to the Market at Riverwood in the former site of The Flying Biscuit Café in the spring.

A Dunkin’ Donuts and Riverwood Wine & Spirits also are under construction in the Eclipse at Riverwood near the intersection of Washington Road and William Few Parkway. A new Dunkin’ Donuts opened in the Grovetown city limits on Wrightsboro Road near the intersection of Horizon South Parkway in July.

Outside the city limits, Sarge’s Soda Shop opened on Columbia Road next to Food Lion in the Grovetown area in January. Sporting a retro look, the shop offers custom sodas, floats, cookies and popcorn.

Vampire Penguin opened a new location in Grovetown on Lewiston Road as well.

“We’re seeing more regional chains and franchises coming into the market, not necessarily the national chains that everybody knows,” says Robbie Bennett, executive director of the Development of Columbia County.

To Your Health

Whats New 2021

New medical facilities offer increasing options to Columbia County residents.

One perk that attracts people, from young families to retirees, to the area is the access to healthcare. For Columbia County residents, these facilities keep getting closer.

Scott Johnson, the county manager, says county and Augusta University Health officials are in constant contact about the construction of a new hospital in the Gateway area near Grovetown.

According to Johnson, county and AU Health officials are working to craft a memorandum of understanding to issue bonds for the construction of the $150 million hospital.

Originally, the county committed to paying 20% of the construction costs, which would have totaled $30 million. However, Johnson says, the two parties have moved away from the 20% contribution to issuing bonds for 100% of the project.

“All of it would be paid by the hospital, but the bonds would satisfy the county’s legal requirement,” he adds.

Johnson expects to see “some movement on the project” by the early summer of 2023.

“The hospital is under design,” he says. “The state has put in additional dollars to help with the design and to keep the project going.”

Another upcoming medical facility in the county includes Piedmont Occupational Medicine Prompt Care, which is under construction on a 2.6-acre site on Appling Harlem Road near Interstate 20. The 12,250-square-foot facility could be completed in the fourth quarter of 2022 or the first quarter of 2023.

A Kids Street Urgent Care opened earlier this year on Washington Road in Martinez in the former location of The Wicker Barn. A new Fastest Labs opened a new location on Columbia Road in the Columbia County Medical Center in June.

Earlier this year, Beach Medical opened on North Louisville Road in Harlem, and 7 Seas Medical Spa opened a new location on Meridian Drive in Grovetown.

School Days

Whats New 2021

Public school photos courtesy of Columbia County School District

Look for lots of additions to Columbia County School District and other educational facilities.

The Columbia County School District has big plans.

In August, district personnel presented the Board of Education with a 10-year building program proposal that will equip county schools to accommodate continued growth projections, while focusing on modernization and upgrades to existing facilities.

Steven Flynt, superintendent of schools, says the district developed the program as part of its five-year strategic plan, and it surveyed people in the community to find out what they wanted in their school district.

“Early on, we heard a lot about aging facilities and the need for updates to schools,” he says. “We decided it would be more effective to project 10 years out and let the community know what was going to happen and when it would happen.”

District officials also worked with consultants and enrollment forecasters to develop the plan for 2022-32.

In the meantime, several schools started the 2022-23 academic year with a new look.

Grovetown and Harlem high schools opened with 22 additional classrooms in August, and Greenbrier Middle School has a new 12-classroom addition.

Classroom additions also are underway at Harlem and Columbia middle schools, and site work has begun for a 12-classroom addition to Euchee Creek Elementary School.

“Right now we’re focused on making sure we get all of our additions built so we can get students in regular classrooms,” says Flynt.

The athletic fields at all five county high schools also got a facelift in the past year, replacing the grass with artificial turf to increase useability.

“We can use the fields for practice, games and right after inclement weather because we put in drainage,” says Flynt.

A softer rubber in-fill of a lighter color was installed as well.

“The new fields don’t absorb as much heat,” Flynt says. “They are 20 percent cooler than fields with black rubber in-fill. We also put pads under the fields that cushion the landing when students fall.”

As part of the project, all of the high school tracks also got an upgrade. With the exception of Evans High, the tracks are eight-lane competition tracks.

The upgrade of the Lakeside tracks, which are separate from the stadium, was expected to get underway in September. Flynt says this project should take about a month to complete.

The cost of each track upgrade was about $700,000, and each one has an eight- to 10-year warranty.

In the next several years, some older elementary school buildings will be replaced with new facilities as well.

Westmont Elementary School, which opened in 1970, was demolished this summer, and construction of a new building will take place at the same location. Site work is expected to begin soon, and the new facility is scheduled to open in the 2024-25 school year with a capacity to hold 875 students.

The school district closed on property in August next to North Columbia Elementary School for the construction of a new building. The school currently has 450 students, but the new facility will have a 762-student capacity. Site work has begun, and the new building is expected to open for the 2025-26 academic year.

The school district tore down the old North Harlem Elementary School building several months ago, and it also plans to decommission the current South Columbia Elementary facility, built in 1968, in the 2024-25 school year. Even though the building will be torn down, Flynt says, the district plans to hold on to the land.

In the private school sector, site work has begun at Savannah River Academy on Old South Belair Road in Grovetown. The school is constructing two new buildings totaling 13,000 square feet, and the expansion is expected to accommodate up to 200 students from preschool to eighth grade.

Construction is underway at Goodwill’s Helms College at the corner of Furys Ferry and Washington roads as well. The college is adding a hemodialysis center for students at the former Final Cut site, building a 3,000-square-foot commercial kitchen onsite and converting the former Georgia Bank & Trust building into a welcome center. The 10-acre campus will be just under 100,000 square feet upon completion.

Junior Achievement Discovery Center Planned

The Columbia County Board of Education has partnered with Junior Achievement and the Richmond County School System to add a Junior Achievement Discovery Center at the Student Support Complex on River Watch Parkway.

Scheduled to open in the fall of 2023, the Discovery Center will serve 15,000 middle school students annually and offer two programs – JA BizTown and JA Finance Park.

Through JA BizTown, sixth graders will interact within a simulated economy and take on the challenge of running a business. Because BizTown will be made up of 18 storefronts featuring local businesses, students will realize the opportunities available in their hometown.

“It will look like a little CSRA,” says Steven Flynt, Columbia County superintendent of schools.

JA Finance Park lets seventh or eighth grade students experience adulthood and learn how to provide for a household. Guided by an assigned “life situation,” students will participate in a simulation that helps them develop skills to navigate today’s economic environment and understand how current decisions affect the future.

Flynt says local residents will have opportunities to volunteer with the program, and classroom work will supplement the concepts students learn at the Discovery Center.

The two school districts will split the cost of building the 30,000-square-foot Discovery Center, and Junior Achievement will run the facility.

Currently, the school systems are finalizing the architectural design of the center, which will be the sixth one in the state.

Parks and Arts

Whats New 2021

Recreational and entertainment amenities play a large part in the county’s appeal.

With the Savannah River, Clarks Hill Lake and extensive hiking and biking trails, Columbia County is a natural outdoor playground. However, planned recreation and new performing arts opportunities enhance leisure time as well.

County officials have been working on Recreate Columbia County, a master plan for recreation, since last year, and John Luton, director of Community & Leisure Services, anticipates that the plan will be finished by the end of 2022.

If voters approve the 2023-28 SPLOST proposal in November, he says, its recreation projects will be incorporated into the master plan and “guide us from 2023 moving forward.”

The new SPLOST proposal would total $288 million in spending. In the meantime, however, park projects that were approved in the 2017-22 SPLOST are continuing.

At Blanchard Park, a new roadway that connects the park with Columbia Road is almost complete. Other projects include improving the athletic fields, reconfiguring the park and adding eight to 12 pickleball courts.

“There’s a real need and desire for more pickleball courts in the county, and this is a good area for them,” says Luton.

Currently, the county is in the conceptual phases of Riverwood Park on Hardy McManus Road. Luton says this park, modeled after Gateway Park, will include passive open space, a walking trail and a splash pad. He also says Riverwood Park is a prime location for mountain bike trails.

“There will be trails there to some extent,” says Luton. “How comprehensive the trail system can be will be dictated by the funding that’s available.”

Design work for Riverwood Park could begin late this year or early next year.

“We have a certain amount of funding available now as well as some in the next SPLOST,” Luton says. “SPLOST will dictate the level of amenities we can provide there.”

At Savannah Rapids Park new playground equipment, which totaled about $220,000, should be installed this month and poured-in-place rubber surfacing will replace the mulch on the ground. These upgrades are occurring in conjunction with a parking lot project, which is expected to be completed in the spring or summer.

From BMX and youth soccer to corn hole, disc golf and collegiate soccer, he says sporting events and tournaments held in the county last year had an economic impact of just under $3 million.

“As we develop more parks, we develop them with sports tourism in mind,” says Luton.

In Harlem, the half-mile Sandy Run Creek Trail is nearing completion. “We understand that several residents have already utilized the trail, both walking and riding bikes,” says Debra Moore, city manager.

(Birds, butterflies and dragonflies have discovered the natural habitat around the trail as well.)

The city of Grovetown has made improvements to its public parks, including the restoration of the pavilion and the addition of pickleball courts at Goodale Park.

At Liberty Park, the ball fields have been restored and the concession stand and restrooms have been refurbished. Renovations also include the addition of new scoreboards and updates to existing scoreboards.

In addition, Liberty Park’s community center is being updated with improvements to the gym and painting of the interior.

A new depot project is underway in Grovetown as well. The city has plans to recreate the old Grovetown railroad depot across from City Hall at East Robinson and Railroad avenues.

The 4,000-square-foot, publicly owned building will be able to accommodate 170 guests for community activities. Slated for completion sometime next year, the depot will include a catering kitchen.

The arts provide plenty of entertainment for Columbia County residents as well.

While the county hopes to measure the economic impact of the Performing Arts Center in 2023, Luton says the facility has “struck a good balance” with the type of activities it has drawn. Events have included Broadway musicals, community theater performances, dance recitals, fundraisers and high school graduations.

“I think the community has shown a lot of pride in the PAC,” Luton says.

Construction also got underway in June on Enopion Theatre’s 156-seat Flowing Wells Theatre in Martinez. The $2.1 million project is scheduled for completion by the end of the year.

At Your Service

What's New 2022

Improvements to government facilities enhance services for residents.

Columbia County prides itself on its responsiveness to constituents, and efforts are underway to make that relationship even stronger.

For instance, the county is making $3 million in improvements to the Justice Center Annex, the former TaxSlayer building that the county purchased in 2020 for $6.5 million, on Evans Town Center Boulevard. The improvements include the addition of a courtroom, primarily for juvenile proceedings, which county officials hope to finish by the end of the year.

In addition to juvenile court, the annex houses offices for the district attorney and public defender as well as the Community Services Division.

“Once we finish that, then we can move to the Justice Center. We have the design done and the funding in place,” says Scott Johnson, the county manager.

The $17.4 million improvements to the Justice Center include the addition of a new wing to house three or four courtrooms, the expansion of office space and additional space for the Sheriff’s Office.

Construction continues on the $7.68 million Sheriff’s Office Administrative Building, and the project, which is financed by 2017-22 SPLOST monies, is expected to be completed by late 2022 or early 2023.

“Right now it’s on time and on budget,” says Johnson.

The three-story, 27,000-square-foot building is located next to the detention center on County Camp Road in Appling, and it will house the investigations and interviews divisions, office space, and clerical and administrative support.

Wayfinding signs have been installed countywide to direct visitors and residents to local amenities and landmarks.

“More signs are coming,” says Scott Sterling, the Planning Services director.

In Grovetown, says Ronald Kurtz, the city’s director of Planning and Community Development, officials plan for the future by making sure it has the proper infrastructure in place to accommodate growth. For instance, a $25 million project to expand the wastewater treatment facility for coming needs was completed earlier this year.

Currently, the plant is processing 1.2 million to 1.6 million gallons of water per day, but it has the capacity to treat 3 million gallons of water daily. The project, which began in 2016, also included the installation of additional pipes.

The plant processes 100% of the water within the city limits as well as water in surrounding areas, Kurtz says.

Thick & Spooky Pumpkin Soup

  • 2.5-pound sugar pumpkin or butternut squash (or 2 cans pumpkin puree)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled whole
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth/stock
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • Black olives, for spider garnish

Cut pumpkin, scrape out seeds and cut flesh into chunks of about 1 or 2 inches. Place pumpkin, onion, garlic, broth and water in a pot and bring to a boil, uncovered. Reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes or until pumpkin chunks are tender.

Remove pot from heat and, using an immersion blender, blend until smooth (if using a tabletop blender, let mixture cool first). Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Ladle soup into individual bowls and add circles of cream. Lightly pull a knife or toothpick through the cream to make the web. Garnish with olive spiders and serve. Makes 4-6 servings.

Petscaping 101

Garden Scene

12 tips for designing pet-friendly yards for Fido and Fluffy.

1. Know which plants are poisonous to pets.
Many popular outdoor plants are harmful to pets. Poisonous plants include azaleas, rhododendrons, amaryllis and bulbs such as tulips, narcissus and iris. For an extensive list, visit

2. Landscape with flowers and plants that are pet friendly.
Dog friendly garden plants include roses, daylilies, marigolds, magnolias, ornamental grasses, junipers and lilacs. Cat friendly plants (yes, they like to eat their greens) include catnip, catmint (bees and other pollinators like these flowers, too) and cat grass.

3. Keep select garden veggies separately fenced.
Foods like onions, tomatoes, chives and garlic are fine for human consumption, but they are toxic to pets. Fence off your garden if growing these vegetables.

4. Create a lawn with a pet-proof grass.
Lawncare experts recommend a variety of grasses such as Bermudagrass, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fescue and zoysia for homes with dogs. All of these have thick roots, rapid growth rates and a tolerance for high traffic.

5. Give your cats some seclusion.
Cats enjoy a nice patch of grass for sunbathing, but they also like their privacy. Create nooks and crannies where they can hide by setting up a group of container plants or hollowing out spaces under existing plants where they can retreat from the world.

6. Consider a catio.
Think outdoor resort for your cat. These open-air, screened structures are often built on patios or around tree trunks and should include a cat bed, toys, climbing poles and varying levels where they can jump or lounge.

7. Design a landscape that includes shade and shelter.
If your dog spends a large part of the day outdoors, make sure it has access to shade, water and protection from the elements. If trees don’t create shady spots, create one with a pagoda, shade sail or doghouse.

8. Be sure water features are pet friendly.
An outdoor fountain or water feature can be a creative way to keep your pet hydrated. However, make sure the water circulates well to help prevent mosquitoes, and avoid water treatments that can harm pets. And remember: if pets can get in the water, they need to have a safe, easy way out, too.

9. Beware of food and garden waste, aka compost.
Although compost can enhance garden soil, some foods can create problems for pets. For instance, coffee, moldy food and certain fruits and vegetables, including some stems, leaves and seeds, are toxic to your pets.

10. Maintain your yard to keep fleas and ticks at bay.
Keeping your yard free from overgrowth, puddles and lawn debris helps to reduce the chance of fleas and ticks. Planting your garden with flea-repelling plants such as chamomile or lavender also is a natural way to help keep your pets safe from pests.

11. Play fetch with a toy bone instead of a stick.
When fetching a stick, your pooch accidentally could swallow part of the wood. Splinters can get stuck in its mouth and esophagus; larger fragments could cut the stomach lining and intestines or cause constipation. Play it safe with toys.

12. Avoid burning yard debris.
Burning trash releases chemicals that can lead to asthma and mouth burns, among other injuries, in humans and animals. Once the fire has been extinguished, the ash still contaminates the grass where your pets walk.

Setting the Pace


Pace line BicyclesGet ready, cyclists. Paceline, a casual bike ride dedicated to helping cure cancer faster, is holding its third annual PaceDay on Sunday, October 16. Participants can choose to ride 25, 50 or 70 miles, and 100% of all fundraising supports research at the Georgia Cancer Center.

The Opening Ceremony will be held 4 p.m. – 9 p.m. Saturday, October 15 at SRP Park. This event will include food, fun, cancer stories and live music from Funk You and Moon Taxi. Riders can drop off their bikes and pick up their swag bags as well. Early packet pickup also will be available at the start location before the ride on PaceDay.

On PaceDay, cyclists can park in downtown Augusta and take a shuttle to the ride start at SRP Park from 6 a.m. – 7:30 a.m. All rides will depart at 8 a.m. In addition, “unchained” riders can participate virtually from any location. For more information, visit