Kayaking, canoeing and tubing on the local rivers, primarily the Etowah between Cartersville and Rome, has increased to the point where leaders are considering the addition of more ramps to access the water to draw even more attention to the region’s original interstate system.
Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor said he is considering at least two more ramps, one close to the Bartow-Floyd County line and another closer to the Allatoona Dam off Ga. 293 near Emerson.
Taylor said it’s not important whether the ramp near the county line is in Bartow or Floyd County.
“It serves the same citizens,” Taylor said.
The commissioner said it’s not unusual to see the ramps full on the weekend and, in fact, he got a call from a couple that had driven to Cartersville to float the river recently who said they wished he would expand parking at all the ramps.
“It looks like we can’t build them big enough or enough of them,” Taylor said.
Deston Taft, 14, from Taylorsville, put in at Old Hardin Bridge Saturday for a float to Neel’s Landing at U.S. 411. He’s been kayaking a couple of years and said kayaking is a great way to relax and spend time with family or friends.
“You just got to be careful not to get hung up on the rocks and stuff,” Taft said.
Commissioner Taylor said one of the greatest things about the ramps is that it is a passive form of recreation that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance after construction, as opposed, for example, to football, baseball and soccer fields.
“We go by once a week and clean ’em up and empty the garbage. People that use the river tend to be environmentally conscious. They don’t throw the trash out and they help clean up the river,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he’ll probably allocate some capital funds for new ramps in the future but would also seek grant money wherever it may be available.
Rick Dempsey, owner of River Ratz, a kayak and inner tube rental company in Rome, believes Floyd County could use some additional ramps because people like to put in at different locations.
Aside from the Dixon landing to Heritage Park float, everything else locally is a long-haul float or paddle.
Dempsey said the Dixon to Heritage Park paddle is close to six miles and — depending on the rate of flow in the river — it can range from a two- to four-and-half-hour float. He said the Oostanaula could really stand some ramps because there is nothing between Ga. 140 and Ridge Ferry Park.
Daniel Lauro, Cartersville, said the float on the Etowah between the Old Hardin Bridge ramp and Neel’s Landing “is a little bit of peace.” Lauro and his wife have been kayaking about three years and really like the idea of more ramps to be able to explore more river.
Cliff Sanford, from Gilmer County, and Allen Abernathy from Taylorsville, put in at Neel’s Landing Saturday for some fishing and hauled in a couple of nice stripers. Abernathy said they come just about every weekend. Sanford said he has been fishing the Etowah most of his life and was excited about the possibility of additional ramps.
Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman, executive director of the Coosa River Basin Initiative, said he’s working with various groups in Floyd County with eyes on the development, not only of additional ramps, but the potential creation of a paddle-access only campground somewhere along the river.
Demonbreun-Chapman said that more access is good for the river.
“The more people paddle, the more people see the impact of litter and more people are likely to pay attention to the health of the waterways,” he said.
The CRBI chief said there is some talk of a new ramp into the Oostanaula near State Mutual Stadium that would create an attractive short run to downtown Rome.
The paddle-in only campsite is something that he’d like to see somewhere between the Neel’s Landing ramp in Bartow County and Dixon landing off the East Rome Bypass. The creation of sleeping platforms with screened walls and showers would be inaccessible by land.
“If we’re going to have these rivers, the best way to get out of town dollars to stay in Floyd County is to make people stay overnight,” Demonbreun-Chapman said. He surmised that when the long-haul floaters got to Rome and were ready to get off the river, they’d most likely be looking for a restaurant to get a good meal and maybe a hotel to get a good night’s rest before going home.
There are funds in the 2017 Floyd County SPLOST, $3.6 million, for projects on the rivers, however those projects have not been fully defined yet.