WWALS receives Alapaha Water Trail grant from Georgia River Network
Adel, GA, July 21st 2014 — The statewide umbrella group Georgia River Network has awarded a grant to WWALS Watershed Coalition to help conserve the mostly-undiscovered recreational and economic gem of the Alapaha River by constructing an Alapaha Water Trail (ART). WWALS invites landowners, local governments, and the public to participate.
Brown’s Guide to Georgia describes the Alapaha as “jungle-like in its remoteness and luxurious with exotic vegetation, the dark reddish-brown waters of the Alapaha wind through a swampy wonderland teeming with wildlife.”
A Water Trail or blueway will help more people see this local gem, raising awareness to conserve it, more than outweighing the minimal disturbance of signs and boats. WWALS will draw on GRN’s extensive experience with Water Trails on other rivers in Georgia.
WWALS will center the initial blueway section on the Alapaha River Park recently funded by SPLOST tax dollars for implementation by the Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Authority (VLPRA), after a successful campaign for that park with the Lowndes County Commission last year. Starting at Lakeland in Lanier County, the Alapaha Water Trail will run from GA 122 past the site of Hotchkiss Bridge (Lanier County), to the new park at US 84 (Lowndes County), to Statenville (Echols County), connecting to Florida’s Suwannee River Wilderness Trail (SRWT) near Jennings (Hamilton County, FL).
Distances between those put-ins are rather long for family outings, so WWALS seeks landowners who would be willing to provide community access in between, or perhaps emergency exits. Some landowners may wish to showcase their local native plants or minerals, perhaps even offering local hiking trails or greenways. Landowners farther upriver than Lakeland are also invited to participate, since the ART should expand up that way.
The SWRT already includes the Florida portions of the Withlacoochee and Alapaha Rivers, with a boat ramp at the junction of the Alapahoochee River and a canoe launch near Jennings, FL:
The SWRT includes most of the section where the Alapaha River goes underground south of Statenville, GA in the dry season, bubbling back up very cold at the Alapaha Rise south of Jennings, FL, flowing for a few more miles before joining the Suwannee River. Fortunately, the SWRT includes hiking and biking trails, so a dry-land river section is no problem. WWALS plans for ART to also branch out into hiking and biking trails or greenways, probably starting with hiking the riverbed in that dry section.
ART guide materials (brochures, maps, guides, cards) will include side trips for Grand Bay Wetlands Management Area (Lowndes County) and Banks Lake (Lanier County).
WWALS welcomes local government participation in implementing and promoting this Alapaha Water Trail. Boating, fishing, and camping are environmentally-friendly ways to promote the local economy. Boaters buy gear and eat at local restaurants, and not everybody sleeps in a tent; some stay in local hotels. This kind of recreational opportunity improves quality of life, and is attractive to employees of knowledge-based businesses.
WWALS welcomes donations and foundation support to implement further Water Trails, such as upstream on the Alapaha, plus on the Withlacoochee and Little Rivers, and possibly on the Willacoochee and Alapahoochee Rivers, maybe even on Okapilco Creek and other creeks in the WWALS watersheds.
WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. is an advocacy organization working for watershed conservation of the Willacoochee, Withlacoochee, Alapaha, and Little River Systems watershed in south Georgia and north Florida through awareness, environmental monitoring, and citizen advocacy. WWALS’ nine board members hail from four counties: Tift, Berrien, Lanier, and Lowndes; board meetings are open to the public.
WWALS holds frequent indoor events about invasive and native plants, the Floridan Aquifer, history, archaeology, water quality and quantity. WWALS advocacy so far has included speaking at the Georgia Public Service Commission in favor of solar power for less water use, filing as an intervenor against the Sabal Trail methane pipeline that would cross our Withlacoochee River twice, and lobbying the Lowndes County Commission for establishment of an Alapaha River Park.
Chris Graham 229-588-1392
John S. Quarterman 229-242-0102