Springfield’s path to the Ebenezer Creek has taken another step.
The city has put into motion a Coastal Incentive grant from the state Department of Natural Resources that will go toward building a kayak and canoe launch.
The project will cost $71,000, with the grant providing $33,500. The city will stake $37,500 to the project, almost all of it through in-kind matches, as city employees will perform the work.
“The grant will acquire a small piece of property and install a very simple kayak and canoe launch,”
said City Manager Brett Bennett. “This creates Ebenezer Creek access much closer to Springfield.”
Said Springfield Mayor Barton Alderman: “We’re very excited about it.”
City council members also were presented three sets of plans to turn a former oxidation pond into the second phase of the Ebenezer Greenway, with a park, picnic areas and potential canoe and kayak launch points.
“I think the majority of the council was for making a smaller pond because that’s the cheapest way to go,” Alderman said. “It also will give us more parking.”
Alderman said more space would be needed for parking to accommodate trailers for canoes and kayaks.
The third option also enables the city to get rid of the sludge by draining the pond, pushing the sludge to the side, allowing it to dry and then covering it with clay.
“So instead of becoming a hazard, it actually becomes your substrata or your base,” Alderman said. “We all liked the concept of it. We liked the look of it on the map. When they said that’s the cheapest way, that made it an even better option.”
However, the key to obtaining more grants for that portion of the project is finding a way to route stormwater into the pond.
“The problem with it as they presented it, there’s no means of drainage water to get into the pond,” Alderman said. “That would reduce one of the main grants we’re trying for, for stormwater abatement.”
The city would like to have the stormwater drainage from the post office area run into the treatment pond. That would allow freshwater to enter the pond during periods of heavy rain.
“Anytime you have standing water, you’re going to have a mosquito problem,” Alderman said. “That’s why we’re really insistent on having the water flow in and out.”
Springfield may have a more definite idea on costs and available grants within the next year, according to the mayor.
“We’ve got to get cost estimates,” Alderman said. “The city doesn’t want to sink a tremendous amount of money into it. The grants will be a determining factor. That’s why we’re looking at historic preservation, conservation grants, stormwater runoff grants. That’s going to be major. The engineers are working up cost studies. We have to know how much it will cost before we can approach somebody about costs.”
The greenway, once completed, would run from Jack’s Branch right behind the Living History Site to Ebenezer Creek. The city was given 18 acres known as Thompson’s Island and also used a grant to buy 275 acres that contain the historic Ebenezer Crossing.
Alderman said the city doesn’t want to own land along the creek, but rather it wants to open it up for more kayak, canoe and nature enthusiasts to enjoy it.
“If people give us land and if we get grants to buy land along the creek, that’s all well and good,” he said. “Our goal is not to own the property. It’s more of a partnership with landowners along the creek to have it opened up for economic development, for kayaking, for canoeing. The more people we can bring in for things like that, the more demand we’ll have for restaurants and hopefully down the road even a motel in the area.
“We’re looking at it not only to preserve the creek for our children and grandchildren,” Alderman added, “but also as an economic driver for the county.”
The gift from the Thompson family was the “start of a snowball,” Alderman said. After obtaining that land, the city got grants from the DNR and the Trust for Public Lands to buy the 275 acres that are home to the site of the Ebenezer Crossing tragedy from the Civil War. The tract also protects nearly two miles of waterways along the Ebenezer Creek and Savannah River.
“Things have just fallen into our laps,” Alderman said. “We got a grant to buy Log Landing, which is traditionally one of the main kayaking entry points. We have people working with us on the state and federal level, and landowners are working with us on this greenway.
“Ideally, we’d like to have a walking trail from the museum all the way to the Savannah River. Whether that’s feasible, I don’t know.”
Alderman said he has had people around the state ask him about Ebenezer Creek, once they find out he’s from Springfield.
“It’s amazing when you talk to someone from Macon and they come here to go kayaking once or twice a year on Ebenezer Creek,” he said. “If we can continue to build on that, it will be tremendous for all of Effingham County.”