North Florida, Alabama and Georgia looking to connect river communities

21 09 2008

By Bruce Ritchie |

CHATTAHOOCHEE — Steamboats once plied the Apalachicola carrying cotton, timber and other commerce between farms and forests in Alabama, Florida and Georgia and the Gulf of Mexico.

Now, some residents are hoping to reconnect communities like Chattahoochee, Sneads and Blountstown to the Apalachicola River for tourism and economic development.

They’re supporting the concept behind a group called RiverWay South, based in Columbus, Ga. at Columbus State University. The group says its mission is to promote the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers for tourism and to preserve the heritage of communities.

“That (Apalachicola River) was an economic engine that drove this area years and years ago,” said Lee Garner, city manager of Chattahoochee. “I’d like to see it used some more.”

Larry Johnson of Tallahassee, who was visiting the Apalachicola River in Chattahoochee, said the idea sounds interesting.

“I love water — that’s why I’m here right now,” he said standing near the river bank below the U.S. 98 bridge.

In Fort Gaines, Ga. along the Chattahoochee River, the group helped bring in University of Georgia students to produce plans, brochures and signs for connecting historic and natural areas and redeveloping the area. The university has begun looking at Chattahoochee and Apalachicola to create links the Apalachicola River and draw visitors.

Some say it’s a hopeful sign amid the ongoing fight over water among from the river system among Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

The three states have been fighting in federal court over water since 1990. Citing environmental concerns, Florida also has refused to allow Apalachicola River dredging for barge traffic to the upstream states.

But supporters of RiverWay South say the focus is on the three states’s shared resource — the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system. And they say it will help forgotten communities once again use the river as an economic engine.

Read on here.