This past Thursday (August 2, 2012) Michelle Daniels and I had the privilege of joining several Chatham County officials on a meeting at the rails to trails to survey the damages the trail has suffered due to the onslaught of tidal changes these last few years. Mr. Pat Monahan, Mr. Al Lipsey and several other employees of Chatham county discussed what could be done to effectively restore the heavily damaged sections of the trail and to fortify these areas so that future tidal change impacts are minimized. Well, I must say that this field trip with several of Chatham county’s leaders was a very educational and positive experience! It was a meeting that produced results, – positive results!
One of the officials guesstimated the cost to repair the damaged sections of the trails at approximately $25,000.00. My natural tendency is to assume that it will cost twice the amount stated but nevertheless that was a pleasant figure to my ears! And, from what I’ve been told the county has that money on hand! Let’s keep our fingers crossed!
Also, let us continue down the path of setting up an “Adopt a Trail” program for our Rails to Trails and, let us continue with our plans of fund raising. Every cent we can raise to help with the cost of restoring and fortifying the trail is a step in the right direction.
So, why are certain sections of the trail eroding so severely while others are not? That’s a bit complicated and, not being a trail erosion scientist I’ll do my best to try and explain what I was told. First, let me explain our situation with the rails to trails. The rtt is on a very narrow strip of land called McQueen’s Island. On the North side of the trail is the Savannah River that happens to be divided into two channels – the north channel and the south channel. The north channel gets all of the cargo ship traffic while the south channel gets a lot of recreational boating and jet ski traffic. In between the north and south channel is another thin strip of land called Long Island. The northern shore of Long island has severely eroded due to the daily cargo ship traffic up and down the Savannah River. In case you did not know, Savannah has the fourth busiest port in America and, the cargo ships are only going to increase once the deepening of the Savannah River is done. Any way, when these large cargo ships make their way up and down the river they will displace as much as six feet of water. When the ships pass by that displaced water rushes back and pounds the shoreline of Long Island.
The worse damage the rtt has is on the western-most part of the trail. That part of the rtt is not protected by Long Island as you can see on the map above. So, when the ships pass by to and fro, the displaced water must return where it came from and thus, that part of the rtt gets hammered all day long especially as the tide moves in. And, add a few of the storms we’ve had recently along with the Spring super high tides we had and the damage becomes more severe. But, that’s not all that’s adding to the erosion.
This next section is going to be a little difficult for me to explain but I’ll do my best. Closer in on McQueen’s Island near the main entrance the trail is fortified well with hundreds of pounds of bagged oyster shells. Point in fact, there are 600 tons of bagged oyster shells fortifying the rtt. When the water washes over the trail the water tends to pull back to where it came from (back into the river – the south channel). You get what I mean? Well, when the water washes up on top of this section of the rtt it pulls back into the river and, with it carries away dirt and pebbles that are on the trail back into the river. Now, you do this several hundred times a day, week after week, and you see how the erosion can become significant, right? What the county is proposing is that the northern edge of the rtt get built slightly higher than the other side of the trail. When the tide washes onto the trail (from the south channel) the water will then flow to the other side of the trail instead of being pulled back into the south channel again, thus, significantly minimizing the erosion on this section of the trail. Does that make sense? I hope I am explaining it well enough. If not, I do apologize – my english not so good.
Now, East of the main entrance the trail is getting washed away dramatically. The county officials could not come up with an explanation as to why that is happening. What they suggest to do in order to minimize the erosion is to drop concrete debris along the coast line of the trail to break up the water as it rushes in toward the trail. And, of course, to rebuild that part of the trail as well using bagged shells. They are no longer using bagged oyster shells because regular shells actually work better than the oyster shells and are more cost effective.
All in all, I was very impressed by all of the Chatham county officials that met us at the Rails to Trails. They assessed the damages and spoke of quick, cost-effective solutions. At the end of the meeting I felt very content with our very competent Chatham county officials and thought, if only the rest of government worked this efficiently and transparently. Every question I asked these gentlemen was addressed and explained well. Mr. Pat Monahan did not have to include Michelle and I in this field trip but did so and I appreciate that greatly.
So, when will the trail maintenance begin? Notice that I used the word “maintenance”. By referring to the restoration of the rtt as maintenance the county is free to rebuild as it sees fit without any need to incorporate other branches of government such as federal and dnr and such. According to Mr. Monahan, once the engineer writes up the report with the proposed plans discussed at the rtt meeting last week the process to rebuild the trail can begin. What time frame does that mean? Mr. Monahan did not specify but I got the impression that it was to be done fairly quickly. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!
Also, we found some pretty cool bricks along the shoreline of the rtt that date back to the 1830s. It was a great experience. I had the privilege of seeing local government at work in a very efficient and effective manner.
For all of you RTT lovers in Chatham county, next time you see one of our county officials give them a big thank you because they mean to repair our trail.
Thanks for stopping by.
All the best to you and yours.
Take care and God bless.