Work in progress at Lakeland Boat Ramp 2023-06-20

Update 2023-06-27: Good Alapaha River 2023-06-25.

Thanks to GA-DNR for silt fences and turbidity curtains during their upgrade of Lakeland Boat Ramp, and for that upgrade.

Also thanks to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GA-DNR) for officially adopting the name Lakeland Boat Ramp as decided back in 2018 by the Lakeland County Commission, as well as Berrien Beach Boat Ramp, also decided in 2018 by the Berrien County Commission, both for the WWALS Alapaha River Water Trail. This naming development is specifically thanks to WWALS tester Kimberly Tanner and GA-DNR Boating Access Coordinator Jeff E. Bishop.

[At-water ARWT sign, silt fences and turbidity curtain, Lakeland Boat Ramp, 2023-06-20]
At-water ARWT sign, silt fences and turbidity curtain, Lakeland Boat Ramp, 2023-06-20

When I took these pictures, Tuesday, June 20, 2023, the Statenville Gauge read about 7.17 feet (83.27′ NAVD88). Today, Saturday, June 24th, the Alapaha River is almost seven feet higher, at 14.01′ (90.11′ NAVD88), into Action Stage.

So don’t be surprised if GA-DNR’s plan to start work May 30 and end about July 26 gets extended a bit.

[Statenville Alapaha River Gauge 2023-06-24]
Statenville Alapaha River Gauge 2023-06-24

Once Lakeland Boat Ramp is back open, remember, don’t try to paddle from there to Hotchkiss Road unless you know what you’re doing. Especially, don’t try it with small children. Too long, too many deadfalls to climb over, and several rapids, including The Rocks.

[Shirley Kokidko on the log --GQ C1, 10:28:54]
Shirley Kokidko on the log –GQ C1, 10:28:54

When I posted about GA-DNR’s announcement of the closing, I wondered:

“All these public access points are on the WWALS Alapaha River Water Trail (ARWT), with maps and at-water signs mostly paid for by a generous grant from GA-DNR.

“Which makes it mysterious why GA-DNR did not use the names it approved for Lakeland Boat Ramp and Berrien County Boat Ramp.”

Shortly afterwards, we were contacted by GA-DNR, saying, “Hello, I understand that a member of the Suwanee Riverkeeper stopped by our project site last week with questions about the work being undertaken. We are replacing this existing boat ramp to provide continued and improved access for anglers and boaters along this reach of the Alapaha River. Please feel free to contact me by email or phone #s listed below for further information.”

That was WWALS tester Kimberly Tanner, with help from the Jones family.

[Lakeland Boat Ramp, Alapaha River, 2023-05-18]
Lakeland Boat Ramp, Alapaha River, 2023-05-18

Her results appeared in the weekly WWALS water quality testing report for May 18, 2023.

[Chart: Bad Franklinville, Withlacoochee River, and Troupville, Little River 2023-05-18]
Chart: Bad Franklinville, Withlacoochee River, and Troupville, Little River 2023-05-18
For context and the entire WWALS composite spreadsheet of water quality results, rainfall, and sewage spills, see:

In the bottom right of her chart are her very clean results for Lakeland Boat Ramp and Naylor Park Beach, for May 18, 2023.

Kim remarked at the time: “Lots of preparation (several work trucks and some land clearing) at the Lakeland Boat Ramp prior to shutting down the ramp AFTER the Memorial Day Holiday. They were very interested in who I “worked for” and seemed pleased to hear about WWALS volunteers doing water quality testing.”

So I did reply to Jeff E. Bishop, Boating Access Coordinator, Fisheries, Wildlife Resources Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GA-DNR). I thanked him for the boat ramp work, and pointed him to the WWALS blog post about it.

Then I asked him, “Given that DNR, through a generous grant, paid for the at-water signs you see there at Lakeland Boat Ramp, and the ones at Berrien Beach Boat Ramp, I wonder why in the announcements about this closing that DNR does not use the names for these ramps that were approved by Lanier and Berrien Counties, and that appear in the signs DNR paid for, as well as in the z-fold brochures, which DNR also paid for?”

Alapaha River Water Trail (ARWT) at-water top sign

Jeff emphasized that, “We will be installing bmp’s in the form of silt fence and turbidity curtain and hopefully these measures will “keep it all together” — and all containment measures will be checked at end of each working day. That said, anytime work of this nature is undertaken in and around water there will be some impacts. We appreciate the Riverkeeper’s efforts in helping us to look after things out there as we all want to protect the Alapaha as a resource for fishing and other recreational enjoyment.”

[Double silt fence 2023-06-20]
Double silt fence 2023-06-20

I thanked Jeff for those Best Management Practices (BMPs), which you can see are in place.

[Turbidity curtain and more silt fences 2023-06-20]
Turbidity curtain and more silt fences 2023-06-20

When I was there Tuesday, I told the workers that I was taking pictures so I could compliment them on their good work. So thanks, DNR personnel.

[GA-DNR equipment on access road to Lakeland Boat Ramp 2023-06-20]
GA-DNR equipment on access road to Lakeland Boat Ramp 2023-06-20

There’s also this drainage ditch that Jeff did not mention.

[Drainage ditch in the woods 2023-06-20]
Drainage ditch in the woods 2023-06-20

To make a long story short, much of GA-DNR was unaware of the 2019 GA-DNR Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant that mostly paid for the ARWT at-water signs at Lakeland Boat Ramp, Berrien Beach Boat Ramp, and elsewhere, as well as for the printed z-fold brochures.

[ARWT Where to put in]
ARWT Where to put in

And unaware that in 2018 Lanier County passed a resolution supporting the Alapaha River Water Trail:

Lakeland Boat Ramp at-water ARWT sign

And that also in 2018, Berrien County named that ramp Berrien Beach Boat Ramp:

Berrien Beach Boat Ramp at-water ARWT sign

Once Jeff saw that these were not informal decisions, rather votes by the relevant County Commissions, and he recalled Lindsey Brown had asked him about those ramps back during the 2019 grant application, Jeff agreed to “forward those to other management and eventually onto Commissioner’s Office for approval.”

And on May 31, 2023, he wrote again:

“Yes—the request for official name change at level of DNR Commissioner’s Office has been approved. The Lanier County boat ramp on the Alapaha River at US129/221 is now officially “Lakeland Boat Ramp” and the Berrien County boat ramp on the Alapaha River at SR168 is now officially “Berrien Beach Boat Ramp”. We are in process of updating our internal records/files with these name changes.

“We believe that the Sheboggy and Naylor facilities are not ours; the Statenville Ramp in Echols County is in our system and already goes by that name.

“Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.”

So I thanked Jeff again, and I do so again now in this post.

PS: There are still some issues with names on the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail (WLRWT), but I’ll bring those up later.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can help with clean, swimmable, fishable, drinkable, water in the 10,000-square-mile Suwannee River Basin in Florida and Georgia by becoming a WWALS member today!