City officials calling for more events, activities on Savannah River

AUGUSTA (WJBF) — With so much growth happening in downtown Augusta, city leaders are calling for more to be done on and around the Savannah River.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau recently released its plan for making Augusta a destination city.

Besides the Augusta Riverwalk, there’s not much you can do along the Savannah River in downtown Augusta.

“I think that we tend to ignore the river as the recreational resource that it is. In fact, we’re standing on property where we are working to do exactly that, bring people to the river,” Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus said.

The Savannah Riverkeeper and city officials are hoping to boost downtown tourism by using the Savannah River more.

The CVB wants to build a River Destination Center with a restaurant and bar, boat rentals and a water taxi service.

“Let’s see if we can think bigger and make that happen because right now, we have no jet ski rentals, no kayak rentals, we have nothing on the water in Augusta. I think that’s one of the things that is hurting us. We don’t have that synergy place on the water,” commissioner Sean Frantom said.

For the Riverkeeper, “Destination Blueprint” is a great idea, however, getting funding for such a massive project is a big if right now, so she says the city should be doing more with the assets it already has.

“The levy is an elevated bike path. Right? This is actually an awesome way for you to see downtown Augusta. It’s an awesome way for you to see the whole river, but we look at it as this huge obstacle that has to be overcome and pretend like this is the reason downtown is strangled,” the Riverkeeper said.

Bonitatibus also says another way to attract people to the river is to redefine our area as a river region.

“The fact is that if you are standing on Broad Street, there’s not a single sign that says, oh, by the way, there’s a really cool river this way,” the Riverkeeper said.

Another idea is to bring more events to the river. Right now, the only major events are the Ironman, the Southern Nationals and rowing events.

“You can do adventure races. You can actually bring a full triathlon. That would be a great way to bring more people. And we don’t really have a great concert venue along the river right now,” the Riverkeeper said.

The Riverkeeper says improvements will need to be made to the Jessye Norman Amphitheater to attract bigger names to play there.

Some commissioners have shown interest in the CVB’s plan, but funding still hasn’t been discussed.

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