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River group holding May 11 fundraising float

Staff Written Community

By Sarah Wibell

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The Apalachee River Hidden Gem event taking place on May 11 hopes to bring in around 50 participants and inspire them to become river and land stewards.

The event organized by non-profit organizations, Georgia River Network and Oconee River Land Trust, is part of Georgia River Network’s Hidden Gems Series. These Hidden Gem events highlight local up-and-coming water trails, providing opportunities for people to rediscover some of the hidden gems on Georgia’s waterways and learn how they can get involved in river protection and enjoyment in their local community. Sign up at https://garivers.org/hidden-gems

This kayaking trip on the Apalachee River starts with a 3-hour flatwater paddle from Rivers’ End at Trimble Bridge to Hard Labor Creek, and ends with a relaxed afternoon of hors d’oeuvres from Donderos’ Kitchen, local craft Southern Brewing Co. beer, and live music performed by Art and Margo Rosenbaum along with Pat Shields, and Bo Wilkey. They will be playing acoustic traditional banjo, and string music.

Afterwards, participants will be led on a leisurely nature walk through one of Oconee River Land Trust’s conservation easements to vehicle parking. Laura Hall, ORLT’s land steward, will be discussing the unique flora and fauna surrounding the Apalachee River along the way, and the work to conserve it. GRN’s Gwyneth Moody will touch on Georgia’s growing network of Water Trails and ways to get involved in river restoration and protection. In addition, Amy Lanclos, Board Chair of the Greater Apalachee River Community Inc. will  touch on the organization’s 2019 initiatives. 

The Apalachee River is an off-the-beaten-path paddling gem that runs from near Dacula, GA to near Madison, GA. Both beginners and experts are welcome.

Tickets include all food, beverages, live music, shuttle and T-shirt. Participants will bring their own kayaks and life vests or rent them from their local outfitter. This event will not only spread awareness and encourage the protection of these pristine natural resources, but also make the connection between healthy land and healthy rivers that we depend upon for recreation, fishing, agriculture, and so much more!

“This event will draw attention to this beautiful river and help highlight the benefits that an established water trail could bring to the communities along it” said Gwyneth Moody, Georgia River Network Director of Water Trails and Outreach.  “The idea of a water trail is that you have access points along the river with kiosks, signage, interpretive educational material, picnic areas, and basically a family-friendly area where people can come and enjoy the day or weekend,” said Moody. “We’re also encouraging people to get on the river itself, either on a canoe or a kayak, or just getting out there and fishing or swimming. The more access you have, the more opportunities people have to get on the river, so it sheds attention on the resource and brings people from the surrounding communities and all over Georgia, boosting economic development for those communities as well as improving quality of life by providing recreation opportunities, and promoting a healthy clean river.” 

“People don’t realize how connected everything we do is to our rivers,” said Moody. “From them we draw our drinking water, industries and agriculture pull water out from the river and put water back in, breweries use our rivers to make beer; there’s so much that’s connected to the river that people don’t see.”

Georgia River Network has been assisting communities throughout the state in the development of water trails (similar to a hiking trail but on a waterway with access points and information kiosks and signage along the route). With the help of educational events such as the Hidden Gem series, the organization has been working with local groups all over the state to designate sections of rivers as official Georgia Water Trails. 

GRN works with and organizes local landowners, river conservation groups, city and county officials, and others, to make the most beautiful and diverse sections of Georgia’s rivers more accessible to the public. Since 2010, the group has succeeded in designating 18 different sections of river as official Georgia Water Trails, increasing economic development and tourism to the surrounding communities and improving the overall condition of the state’s precious natural resources. 

ORLT is a non-profit 501c3 organization that conserves land and waterways across the state of Georgia. Working with local landowners and local governments to permanently protect rivers, forests, and farms, the Oconee River Land Trust’s mission is to conserve clean rivers and drinking water, critical wildlife habitat, and greenspace for future generations. Participants will be putting in to the river, taking out, and enjoying local food and beer on one of ORLT’s protected properties.

“Georgia is one of the top ten fastest growing states in the U.S.,” says Caroline Johnson-Hall, ORLT Director of Development and Outreach. “It’s becoming more important than ever to protect Georgia’s waterways and land to ensure that current and future residents always have access to quality drinking water and green spaces.”

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