I'm a firm believer in small victories, and in narrowing one's focus to tangible and measurable goals. That doesn't mean I think those goals need to be easy. A goal I've recently taken on is to do whatever I realistically can to help make the stretch of the Chattahoochee between Proctor Creek and Utoy Creek clean and wonderful. It's not that I don't want to help save the entire Chattahoochee. It's that I live, at least for the time being, within walking distance of that stretch of the river. As an added challenge it's the most polluted section of the river, so it presents some unique opportunities for people dedicated to problem-solving.
This morning I wandered down to the edge of the river accessable from Riverview Road in south Cobb County and took a few photos. This section of the river is north of 278 and south of the I-285 bridge. Judging from the platte maps I've seen it's on the border between the south edge of Smyrna and the western edge of unicorporated Mableton.
When I left my intent was to drive down to the crossing of 278 (formerly Bankhead Highway, now Donald Hollowell on the Atlanta side, Veteran's Memorial on the Mableton side) over the river, and take some photos. Instead, on impulse, I decided to go down to the Discovery Boulevard bridge over Nickajack Creek.
There I discovered something wonderful.
I walked over the bridge, and started getting serious vertigo. Despite the presence of a sidewalk over the bridge, the railing was very short, and was obviously there for the benefit of cars, not pedestrians. In addition to this the view of the creek was very limited, so I walked back to the edge of the bridge, and noticed that a nice pathway on the southeastern corner led down to the creek itself. I saw no signs restricting access, so I followed the path.
There were obvious signs of overnight stays by the homeless (blankets, old mattresses, etc.), but all-in-all the path along the creek was wide and really quite beautiful. Some sort of concrete water management utility devices dotted the path, so I suspect the path was intended to provide access to the workers maintaining those devices.
I walked for a few hundred feet, until I came to the spot where Nickajack Creek merges with the Chattahoochee. The shoreline was sandy, and the river was relatively wide. The scenery was really awesome. There was little to indicate that I was viewing the most polluted and debauched section of one of the most polluted rivers in the United States.
Rivers are to some extent self-healing, but in order to get a river to really heal we have to stop continuing (much less accelerating) the damage. As a nation, as a state, as counties and municipalities, and as involved citizens, we have to work out a quick and realistic solution to bringing this, the most scandalous section of the Chattahoochee, back to full health.