This one went well. Next year we’ll call it something like the Mayor and Chairman’s paddle. Thanks to everyone who came for supporting WWALS outings and advocacy.
Troupville Boat Ramp, WWTP Outfall; Photos: John S. Quarterman
Down the River: Mayor’s Paddle back on track, Bryce Ethridge, Valdosta Daily Times, 29 March 2021,
VALDOSTA — Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson and 40-plus city and Lowndes County residents gathered Saturday for a three-hour trip down the Withlacoochee River.
The Mayor’s Paddle is a fundraiser and kayaking experience that started in 2020 via a partnership with WWALS Watershed Coalition. “Last year, we formed it just to have a conversation with the cities and municipalities to our south, and to anybody who loved the river here,” Matheson said. “It was our way of saying we’re fully and only committed to keeping this waterway clean and useful for everybody in the area.”
WWALS also partners with Banks Lake Outdoors for free boat rental for the Banks Lake Full Moon paddles.
We partner with Friends of Reed Bingham State Park (FORB) for the BIG Little River Paddle Race, coming up April 24, 2021, at Reed Bingham State Park, between Adel and Moultrie, Georgia, and FORB actually does about half the work on that one.
You could say we partner with the downstream Florida counties in advocating that they should be paid back by Valdosta for the expense they’ve gone to in well and river water quality testing since Valdosta’s December 2019 record sewage spill.
We didn’t have many participants from Florida or elsewhere this time. Maybe we’ll have to do another paddle downstream in Florida for that.
Meanwhile, thanks to The Langdale Company for access at Spook Bridge and at the lunch stop.
It [the Withlacoochee River] was never meant to be a dumping ground, Matheson said. Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman agrees with the notion.
Once a month [actually, usually weekly or more often], WWALS tests the water quality for 80 miles of the river. The group tested the water just last Thursday and found the water clean.
Valdosta had a problem with chronic sewer spills, Quarterman said in a past interview. Fortunately, he added, there hasn’t been a big one since 2019.
Stay tuned for a bit about the recent Valdosta Mildred Street spill.
Still, WWALS places a watchful eye on Valdosta and its neighboring cities. For Quarterman and Matheson, the paddle is a chance to review how the city’s utilities infrastructure is holding up.
The story goes into some detail about Valdosta sanitary sewer system improvements.
WWTP Outfall, Vanessa of City of Valdosta, WWALS President Tom H. Johnson Jr., 10:43:30, 30.8364942, -83.3586909; Photo: John S. Quarterman
This is the cleaned-up treated water, which is what we all want Valdosta to be doing.
The story continues:
Matheson said he was proud of the Paddle turnout. The Paddle had a similar turnout of about 40 people last year.
Paddle events such as the Mayor’s Paddle are sponsored by WWALS, free to members and $10 for non-members.
Having the mayor support the event brings a wider variety of people out, so WWALS can raise more funds for its regular processes. For example, water quality testing costs money, Quarterman said.
“Each of the kits for the tests are about $400, then each test costs right about $10 and that’s for the materials for that one bacterial test,” he said. “The other tests, there are chemicals that are eventually used up or get too old and you have to replace them.”
The fundraiser and membership money also go toward things such as printing and regular marketing expenses.
Quarterman said it’s all worth it because paddlers will get to see the river’s thriving environment. A plethora of fish species live within the river, but the water’s dark coloring doesn’t allow them to be seen.
One animal you’ll always see are turtles, he said.
“You’ll often see birds — buzzards, there’s a whole flock of them down here,” Quarterman said. “Sometimes you’ll see a great blue heron, which we really like because it’s our totem animal. And we almost never see alligators on this stretch but it’s possible.”
All income also helps support the advocacy of WWALS, including encouraging the state of Georgia to deny permits for a strip mine proposed far too near the Okefenokee Swamp, which is the headwaters of the Suwannee River. You can send a message to the state: https://wwals.net/?p=55092
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!