Our Town: South RiverEnvironmentalists tout other metro water options

Say “river” in Atlanta and most people immediately think “Chattahoochee.” But volunteer Jackie Echols wants area residents to know there are other watery options.

As president of the South River Watershed Alliance, Echols has worked for three years to raise awareness about the river that has its roots just north of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and East Point. From there, it flows north for a short stretch before turning southeast. It’s piped under the interstate system and continues into south DeKalb and Rockdale counties before ending at Lake Jackson in Butts, Jasper and Newton counties.

The river becomes navigable at Panola Shoals in South DeKalb, where canoeists and nature enthusiasts can enjoy its natural beauty.

“I’m always amazed at number of folks who don’t even know South River exists,” said Echols, a self-described environmentalist who has worked on water initiatives since 1995. “But having a river is a big deal; not every community has one. If you do, you should take advantage of it. It’s a terrific recreational opportunity.”

The South River Watershed Alliance was formed in 2000, but until Echols took over ten years later, little had been done to publicize the river’s benefits. The northwest Atlanta resident made it a priority to raise the river’s profile and has been raising money and conducting educational sessions to spread the word.

“Nonprofits always need money, but it’s really all about education,” said Echols. “We have long-range plans to make the river a water trail where you can identify historic sites and features along it.”

The Alliance has successfully organized canoe outings that introduce more people to the river’s beauty

“We realized that most people who know about the river know it from crossing the bridge over it,” said Echols. “We have to get people on it to show it to them.”

Echols and Alliance volunteers have planned the organization’s first major community event to garner support. The South River Jamboree, an evening of food, music and silent auctions, will take place Oct 5. The weekend before, on Sept. 28, a canoe outing will take boaters along five miles of the river’s calm waters.

“A lot of folks who don’t canoe come out for these events, and I always tell them, ‘Don’t worry. If you turn over, just stand up.’ The water’s not that deep. But it is a beautiful, urban river with real character and a lot to offer. I think everyone who takes a trip on it comes away with that perspective.”

Each Saturday, we shine a spotlight on a local neighborhood, city or community. To suggest a place for us to visit, e-mail H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or call 770- 744-3042.

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