Water trails for economic benefit —Bret Wagenhorst

This letter demonstrates many public uses of the Alapaha River at Hotchkiss Crossing by everyone from Boy Scouts to doctors, and indicates economic benefits of water trails. -jsq

February 4, 2013
Lowndes County Board of Commissioners
327 North Ashley Street – 3rd Floor
Valdosta, GA 31601
RE: Hotchkiss landing closure

Dear Commissioners:

I have lived in the South Georgia region for the past 16 years. I am also a practicing physician and have a love of the out of doors, especially canoeing, camping and hiking. I also serve on the board of WWALS Watershed Coalition, a local river advocacy group trying to promote awareness and preservation of our local rivers. It has recently come to my attention that you are considering the potential closure of the Hotchkiss landing site along the Alapaha River near Naylor. I would like to put in a word in favor of keeping the landing site open.

I have canoed dozens of different sections of the Alapaha River from north of Tifton all the way to Statenville, as well as portions that join with the Suwanee River in Florida. Without a doubt, one of the most fun and scenic sections to paddle is from the put-in near Burnt Church outside of Lakeland down to the Hotchkiss landing. I have taken various groups

down this section at least 5- 6 times in as many years, and everyone has been impressed with the natural beauty and serenity of the river in this area. I am not the only person leading groups of paddlers down the Alapaha River in this area. Boy Scout Troop 62 in Tifton has done a paddle trip on this stretch of the Alapaha starting from the scout camp outside of Lakeland for many years.

The Hotchkiss landing is the only take out in Lowndes County. If one cannot take out there, it is another several miles to the next take out in Mayday, which would make it exceedingly difficult for the average paddler to enjoy a day trip on this section of the Alapaha River.

Let me point out that there is a potential for economic benefit to the Lowndes County region if this river were to be carefully developed for recreation boating. Water trails along rivers can be an economic boost to local communities. Water trails as recreation destinations can provide rural communities with income to local outfitters, motels, restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations and shops. Research has shown that for every $1 paid to canoe outfitters, customers spend $5 for gas, food and lodging. In 2001 recreational boaters on the Chattooga River in northeast GA spent $1.8 million in the six counties along the waterway.(1) In 2006 over 1000 paddlers were surveyed to determine the economic impact of paddler recreation along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (a 740 mile long paddling route from New York to Maine). The median paddler group spent $215 per trip in the local communities.(2) Although there is no formal water trail on the Alapaha River now, there is potential for this in the future.

In closing, let me say that I hope you will consider keeping the landing open, to allow all of the people in South Georgia access to good, clean recreation on this jewel of a river. If the access is closed, let me strongly encourage you to consider putting in a formal public boat ramp at the bridge across the river in Naylor.

Feel free to call me at 229 392-5513 if you have any questions, or email me at bwagenhorst@hotmail.com.


Bret Wagenhorst, M.D.

PS I’ve attached a few photos from a trip I guided on the Alapaha back in spring 2009.

(1) “Use and Economic Importance of the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River.” American Whitewater, PO box 1540, Cullowhee, NC 28723. info@americanwhitewater.org

(2) “The Northern Forest Canoe Trail: An Economic Impact Study”, Noah Pollock, Lisa Chase, Jane Kolodinsky, and Clare Ginger. University of Vermont, 2006-2007. Vermont Tourism Data Center. www.uvm.edu/toursimresearch

Canoe trip take out at Hotchkiss Landing, Naylor, GA spring 2009