Photo by Dan Cook Robert Dotson, left, and Joe Davis are two paddlers who want to see the Conasauga River preserved.
DALTON, Ga. -- Residents and visitors soon may have the ability to canoe a four-hour stretch of the Conasauga River.
The Conasauga River Alliance hopes to get permission from owners of the Beaverdale Superette, located off Highway 2 in the northern part of Whitfield County, to complete a stream bank stabilization project there that would also provide a canoe access site for public use.
Boaters could get out of the river further downstream at a public access point that Dalton Utilities plans to install this spring. The Dalton Utilities access site will be located on property the company owns near Norton Bridge in the Dawnville area, said Mark Marlowe, vice president of water and wastewater engineering for Dalton Utilities.
It's not clear yet whether or not owners of the Beaverdale Superette will go along with the project.
Aelana Queen, manager at the store, said she's hopeful the project will work out because it'd be good for the area. She said her family is working with the city to negotiate terms of access to their property. They have certain concerns, such as how it would affect their property value, she said.
"I want this to be a win situation for everybody," Ms. Queen said.
Dalton City Administrator Ty Ross said the project fits with efforts to improve life in the city.
"A successful community is just a bundle of shared assets and right now the Conasauga is not shared," he said.
Joshua Smith, watershed director of the Conasauga River Alliance, said these would be the first public canoe access points to the river.
He said people have used the area off Highway 2 to get in the river, but that's resulted in an eroding riverbank, which harms water quality and aquatic life.
Plans are to fix the existing damage by creating a parking area and trail to the access site, he said. They'll also stabilize the stream bank and install a sloping, log-terraced area for the boat launch, said Mr. Smith.
"By getting people out on the river ... I think that will develop awareness and appreciation for those natural resources that we have in the area, while simultaneously we also get to stop some of the erosion from occurring right there," he said.
The cost is estimated at about $41,000. Mr. Smith said the Conasauga River Alliance partly would fund the project with about $14,500 from Clean Waters Act Section 319 and about $3,500 from the World Wildlife Fund.
Mr. Ross said the Dalton Convention and Visitors Bureau would likely pay the rest from funds it receives from the city and county's hotel/motel tax.
Mr. Marlowe said the Dalton Utilities project also would help educate residents about protecting the watershed.
Mr. Smith said the alliance hopes to begin work soon and would like to open the access site by spring or early summer.
Mr. Marlowe said Dalton Utilities' site will open in the spring.