The park system has budgeted $3.1 million to start the work, although members of the state Department of Natural Resources board agreed Wednesday to throw in another $1 million to further the renovation. Additional money to finish the work is expected to be requested from the state next year.
"It gives us a good start," said David Clark, the department's engineering and construction chief, who is overseeing the project. The department is still working out priorities, although Clark said it would likely be the "mundane" work behind the walls that gets done first.
Clark also said he expected to concentrate on the four buildings in sequential order, meaning the department would prioritize them. The largest building has 40 guests rooms and would likely go first. The other three buildings have 20 rooms each. Clark did not give a timeline for when the work would finish.
The money comes from bonds sold by the state this year. It's a welcome infusion, given severe cutbacks in other areas. General state funding cuts for Georgia's parks have totaled 46 percent since 2008, forcing staff reductions, reduced maintenance and limited access for some facilities. Unicoi State Park, however, is a moneymaker for the state, turning a $151,842 profit two years ago -- the latest data available.
Clark said department officials believe renovating Unicoi's lodge will help continue to draw visitors to the park.