Joseph Gudger over all of the information he has gathered from local businesses regarding their desire to continue to welcome boaters to the community. Joe then introduced the Chief of Police who spoke as a private citizen who stated that he regularly parks at the take-out, carries his boat up the river bed, and plays at Whirlpool and Stegall Mill Falls for his mental health. He said that if the parking area was closed, he would have to pay a therapist. 🙂
Laura Dillon spoke primarily on behalf of Team River Runner and the commissioners seemed particularly interested in the grant funds available through DNR to make the put-in and take-out accessible for people with disabilities.
This was the perfect segue into comments made by John Hiscox, a 40+ year boating veteran and Ellijay property owner who spoke eloquently about his wife who has multiple sclerosis and is no longer able to paddle. He drives her down to the Mulkey Road parking area “just so she can look at the river.” He even reported having taken her out into the shallow area in her wheelchair “just so she could feel the water running over her toes.” Closing the parking area would eliminate their ability to enjoy these moments. There weren’t many dry eyes in the room at this point. Dan wrapped up our presentation.
A couple of property owners did speak. One woman focused on the statement that “it’s only ELEVEN parking spots.” Another focused on people speeding down Mulkey Road and creating a hazard. There had been some side conversations during a break in the meeting where some of the homeowners said they had called police to report trespassing (tubers dragging their tubes across the homeowner’s yard and through their flower beds). The police came an hour later and nothing was done. I heard that repeatedly: “They don’t do anything about it.”
There were a couple of things about which everyone seemed to agree: there needs to be increased enforcement of existing laws and the speed limit needs to be reduced on Mulkey Road (and enforced). In the end, the commissioners asked for volunteers to form a committee with equal representation from outfitters, the boating community, and the homeowners. I know Dan took down several names and there was one homeowner who seemed more receptive to working out solutions who agreed to participate.
After the meeting, several of us ran the river and it was great! The weather was perfect and the rain held off. We enjoyed a great dinner at El Rey before heading home. Many thanks to everyone who has had a hand in this process. Dan, Joe, Laura, and John did a great job gathering information and speaking on our behalf. Please know that we were very well represented in a highly positive light today and I do believe good things will come from this.