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Public has new access to Alcovy River

Robert Phillips with Georgia Wildlife Federation leads the way along a trail at Alcovy River at East End, following the dedication of a new public access spot Tuesday.

Robert Phillips with Georgia Wildlife Federation leads the way along a trail at Alcovy River at East End, following the dedication of a new public access spot Tuesday.

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Staff Photo: Erin Evans

Jerry L. McCollum, GWF president and CEO, unveils a kiosk at the trailhead of Alcovy River at East End.

COVINGTON -- The Alcovy River is in many ways the life force of Newton County, supplying drinking water for both reservoirs.

But the river remains mostly unseen, in part due to local officials' dedication to keeping it protected by wide, undeveloped buffers. Out of sight, out of mind, the public may have forgotten that the river offers a wealth of educational and recreational opportunities.

Now, the Georgia Wildlife Federation is aiming to change that by opening a new access point to the river along East End Road. An official dedication and unveiling of an informational kiosk took place Tuesday afternoon, attended by those who have worked to preserve the greenway, which includes trails bordered by fallen trees and a canoe launch.

"It's a place where Newton County citizens can easily learn about the Alcovy River," said Terry Tatum, GWF's vice president of development. "Even though there's 40-plus miles in Newton County, you don't really see it. You cross over it at points but you don't drive along it. The Alcovy River is extremely important to Newton County, not only as a recreational and educational site but as a source of water. This gives citizens an opportunity to see it firsthand."

Alcovy River at East End is 16.7 acres with rambling trails and nearly half a mile of river frontage. The property was purchased in 1997 by The Conservation Fund after going on the open market and being threatened with development, according to "Ulcofauhatchee: A guide to life along the Alcovy River," a new publication by GWF that provides a history of the river and information about the East End project. GWF purchased the property as mitigation in 2002.

The property was cleared of invasive Chinese privet and made ready for public access through Five Star Restoration, a program of the Environmental Protection Agency that provides grants for community-based restoration projects.

Those involved followed the state Wildlife Action Plan to improve the habitat, meaning every effort was made to maintain species common to the area.

A dozen organizations partnered for the project, including Newton County; The Conservation Fund; KCNB; Oxford Institute for Environmental Education; FFA-FCCLA; Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources and Environmental Protection divisions; Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council; Georgia River Fishing; Newton County Master Gardeners; Air Conditioning Specialist Inc.; and Boy Scout Troop 222.