Savannah Riverkeeper Wants More Public Access Along River

One group says all parts of the Savannah River should be
open to the public.

But some parts of the river are privately owned, according
to the Department of Natural Resources.

They say organizers who host events on the water, need to
get permits.

The area in question is Germany Island on the Savannah
River, which flows through Champions Retreat in Columbia County.

“This is a public waterway that we all have rights to.”

The stream may be gentle – but rowing down this river –
seems like an uphill battle.

“Germany Island is a waterway that connects to Betty's
Branch and a lot of people in Evans use this so lots of fisherman,  canoe, boaters,” said Executive Director,
Savannah Riverkeeper, Tonya Bonitatibus.

Next month, this stretch of the Savannah will be filled with
kayaks and boats for Benderdinker.

“Benderdinker is a
canoeing event that goes around this island. Last year, they had a permit to
take this track but this year they are saying they need private property owners
approval to go through the same stretch of water,” said Bonitatibus.

“Champions Retreat denied allowing the public access because
they have a golf tournament going on and the canoers would interrupt that.”

The Savannah Riverkeeper says restricting access on the
waterways is a problem all over Georgia.

“Columbia County invested a good chunk of money so people
could come out here,” said Bonitatibus.

“This needs to be recognized as a public waterway,” said Bonitatibus.

So while these boats may cruise down the Savannah, the
course they take still is uncharted.

“Benderdinker will go on whether they go through the main
channel or if they wrap around the island. That remains to be seen.”

The Department of Natural Resources says they plan to
approve part of the course.

DNR says Champions Retreat will have to approve the part of
water that runs through their area because that is considered private property.

The 2nd annual Benderdinker is on Saturday, April
27th. The 2-hour concert on the water will have several kayaks on
the Savannah River near Betty's Branch.

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