Sunday, August 2, 2015

River Dreams

Sometimes all you need to make the world a better place is a chainsaw, a weedeater, a small, flat trailer and a cooler full of Ale-8s.  Oh, and six able bodies with willing minds.

Last Thursday after work a bunch of us got together and cleaned up an old wastewater treatment site owned by the more diminutive city in Powell County.  We hacked, sawed, pulled, and heaved until we had a swath opened up between the street and the Red River.

It was a tiny step.  It was a huge step.
Instead of discussing things...instead of waiting for “someone to do something”...we just did what we saw needed to be done.  The truth is that we had the blessings of the city council to do what we did.  Heck, it was a city councilman leading the charge.  He brought the Ale-8s!

And so while we wait to hear back from KY Fish & Wildlife about our application for a boat ramp at the city park we have essentially created a take out four miles downstream which is a two block walk from the parking lot for our future put in.  Even if we don't get the F&W grant we have already improved access to the river.  And everyone that hears about what we're doing is excited and sees the value in doing these things.

I had an idea.  It quickly sprouted into a vision.  And when I started sharing it with other people the vision spread like wildfire.  Now it's everywhere.  Now we have full community support. 

The initial idea was to check with KYTC and make sure when they designed the new KY 213 project and bridge over Red River that they not shut us out from a future public river access.  They said “We can do that.  And you should check with Fish & Wildlife.”  I checked with F&W and found out they have a program for exactly what we need in Powell County: small boat access.

Eight miles below the proposed bridge is the Clay City Park which borders the river.  Somewhere between three and four miles below that is the aforementioned abandoned wastewater treatment plant which is still owned by the city.  The second two sites are a short walk overland.

And simple as that our community had a plan for developing access along Red River and reconnecting our communities with the river that they depend on for so much.

We now have a “Friends of” group with 120 Facebook members.  We've started planning a fall river cleanup and have a lot of community interest and support.  The solid waste contractor for the city has volunteered their services to haul off whatever we remove from the river.  Our state representative has pledged his support an help in our efforts.  He volunteered that.  We didn't approach him; he heard what we were doing and said he believed in it.

All of our elected officials are on board with this.  We have momentum and synergy.  It feels great to be part of something positive.  I can't take full credit for this, and I don't want to.  When I started talking about this the city councilman and another classmate of mine from the auld days asked what we needed to do to get this done.  I gave my suggestions and then encouraged them to take charge.  I have so much on my plate I didn't need to take point on another big project.  And I am happy to say they owned it.  They took it on and have begun moving this forward in ways I don't know if I could have on my own.

I planted a seed.  I gave a little water.  Now this beanstalk is growing out of control.  The more people that get involved the more energy we generate.  My only fear is that we'll run out of things we can do and fall into idle mode.  But I've already suggested that over the winter we should work on planning.  A planning document.  And maybe looking into more grant opportunities.

The most frustrating thing about all of this right now is that we don't own a boat.  The Chainring family wants to buy a canoe.  And maybe a couple of kayaks.

My hope is that a lot more families around here will want to buy boats in the next year.
Before and after shots of the take out site.  Photos were taken from essentially the same spot:


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