It’s surprisingly lovely, Sugar Creek. It has a great beach, stretches where birds are far louder than traffic, some shoals (thanks to a Valdosta sewer main), and it’s wider in spots than the Alapahoochee River,
It’s a shame it’s always gotten trash and sewage.
Here’s what we’re doing, and how you can help with that and the rest of what needs to be done.
Meanwhile, Austin, Texas, is turning its urban Waller Creek into Waterloo Greenway of linked parks and trails down to the Colorado River.
Sure, Austin is a much bigger city, but because of that it has a much harder problem.
Look at this beach on Sugar Creek:
That beach is on land Valdosta owns along the right bank upstream of Gornto Road.
Did you know you can paddle upstream under Gornto Road?
Almost all the way up to the Limbo Log, it’s City of Valdosta land on the east side of the creek, for 4 tenths of a creek mile, or more than 2,000 feet.
Much of the way Bobby McKenzie, Russell Allen McBride, and I did that on July 10, 2021, the water had the characteristic tannic acid tea color of a coastal plain blackwater river or creek.
We paddled as far as a brush pile below the Norfolk and Southern Railroad Bridge.
This has to be at least a Class I rapid, maybe Class II. I wouldn’t want to paddle down it.
Maybe we should come back with chainsaws.
According to Valdosta-Lowndes Parks and Recreation Authority (VLPRA), Bland Park extends all the way from Park Lane to the right bank of Sugar Creek. According to the Lowndes County Tax Assessors map, VLPRA does not own land all the way to the creek. Maybe they have an easement across the intervening private land. Either way, Bland Park would be a good place for a put-in to paddle down to the beach and on under the Gornto Road bridge to the Withlacoochee River; about one creek mile.
And then there’s the trash, hanging in the air, on the banks, in the creek.
Below the railroad bridge, The Shallows are a good opportunity to practice poling your boat.
Can you limbo?
The creek is deeper at The Narrows.
But there’s more trash.
It’s hard to believe you’re only a short distance from a busy city street when all you can hear is birds singing.
Back towards where we started.
I let Russell use the Suwannee Riverkeeper Canoe.
Downstream from the Gornto Road Bridge and Twomile Branch is the big trash jam on Sugar Creek.
You’ve already seen the trash jam and the tower of trash.
And I did get the canoe back from Russell.
We ended up with two canoes full of trash.
Thanks, Sue Rafaelle, for the second canoe!
So Sugar Creek could be a gem of an urban waterway.
For that, we need more cleanups. But cleanups won’t be enough. We must stop the trash before it gets to the trashjam, and before it gets to the rapids, the beach, and Gornto Road.
Trash traps will help with that. We are talking to vendors and to the City of Valdosta about trash traps in the creeks, and we are working up grant proposals.
We need to get upstream businesses to keep their trash on their own property. We’re working on that, with some traction already.
Farther on, we need to get bottle deposits in Georgia and Florida, like half a dozen other states already have.
And we need styrofoam bans, like Baltimore started, then Maryland followed, and Colorado.
WWALS: always playing the long game. And you can help!
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!