For more than a century, boaters, kayakers, canoeists and others have been putting their crafts into the water at Ebenezer Landing. But that has come to an end.
Steve and Linda Bodiford said Monday afternoon they are closing the landing immediately, a decision they said did not come easily.
“We just need to get it out that we are closing,” he said. “It’s going to affect a lot of people.”
The Ebenezer Landing has been a popular spot for those wanting to get in and out of the historic Ebenezer Creek and also get on the waters of the Savannah River. Kayakers and canoeists often use the Ebenezer Landing as the end point of a trip down the historic creek, renowned as one of the nation’s best blackwater streams. It’s also a Georgia Scenic River and a National Natural Landmark.
“We saw a lot of people put in at Tommy Long Landing,” Steve Bodiford said, adding they use the public access to the creek and return to shore at their berth.
He also pointed out there are not many places to get bigger boats onto the river.
Bodiford said there was a complaint about the landing lacking facilities, but he countered that they have a working restroom. He also said their lack of a business license was becoming an issue.
“We average being open 45 days a year,” he said, adding most of that is during the summer.
The cost of the business license isn’t the biggest problem, Bodiford said. What is a hurdle is the accompanying classification for the property — Bodiford said it would be then considered commercial for property tax purposes and the family would pay commercial rates for utilities.
“We had an issue with county zoning,” he said. “We’ve been forced to close because of this zoning issue.”
County zoning administrator George Shaw said the lack of a business license had been brought up to the owners previously.
“Should they choose to operate a commercial boat landing, they would need to be approved by the commissioners and may have to provide adequate bathroom facilities that meet current code,” Shaw said.
Steve Bodiford said they can trace the family’s ownership of the landing back 150 years. The operation of the landing isn’t a money maker for the family, he added.
“It’s about 150 years of service to the county. It’s not about a $200 business license,” he said. “I’m retired. My wife’s retired. Our co-owners are retired. We’ve been blessed. We don’t need the money from Ebenezer Landing.”
Linda Bodiford said the money the family charged for the landing’s use went to such items as utilities and repairs. She also said the dictum from their uncle in handing the landing down to them and the other co-owners was to keep it clean and keep out the troublemakers.
“That’s exactly what we’ve done,” she said. “It’s been more family-oriented the last 16 years."
Bodiford said the landing’s closing also will affect the visitors the New Ebenezer Retreat Center brings from Savannah to see and use the waterway. Linda Bodiford pointed out the landing and the nearby waters are favorites of filmmakers, who have used it frequently.
Steve Bodiford said the family has no intention of re-opening the landing. There have been entreaties over the years, the Bodifords said, from the state, the county and the city of Springfield about buying the landing.
In the meantime, according to Steve Bodiford, the family will keep the landing “clean and spit-shined.”
“It’s going to be up to Effingham County where it goes from here,” he said. “We don’t want it to go on the open market. We do love it.”