Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Paddlin' Down to Darien Town Teacher Swims to Conserve the Altamaha

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Paddlin' Down to Darien Town Teacher Swims to Conserve the Altamaha

Article excerpt

Ken Suttles has such a fondness for the Altamaha River that he's

really taken the plunge. The Coffee County resident began a

170-mile swim yesterday in the hopes that he can draw attention

to the need to conserve the waterway.

Suttles, a science teacher at East Coffee Middle School, jumped

into the Ocmulgee River, which feeds into the Altamaha River. He

plans to swim about 10 miles a day before reaching Darien by

July 4. By doing this, Suttles says he hopes to encourage state

officials to grant the entire 220-mile length of the river

preservation status that would protect it from polluting

industries and development.

Although it's a relatively clean river, the Altamaha is

polluted from agriculture runoff, dumping from industrial sites

and heavy recreational use. Even its fish are becoming a

problem.

Flathead catfish, illegally introduced to the river in the

1970s, have eaten much of the native bullhead catfish and

redbreast sunfish.

Even though the distance of his swim seems imposing, Suttles

said he doesn't expect to have to exert himself too much because

the river's current should push him along.

Suttles began his trip at 11:15 yesterday from the Ben Hill

County Landing in the northeast corner of the county.

He spent his first few minutes on the water aboard the raft

teaching the two teens accompanying him how to steer the craft

that will follow behind him.

Patrick Bush, 13, and Jared Middleton, 16, are along as support

staff to guide the raft downstream as it carries the food,

camping gear and clothing that Suttles will need.

Suttles and the two students constructed the raft from

manufactured home doors and 2-by6 boards. Barrels and plastic

foam blocks provide flotation.

Some family members and teachers who work with Suttles at East

Coffee watched as the trio bolted the three sections of the raft

together before setting off.

Among the sendoff party were math teacher Alice Brantley, a

Georgia studies teacher, and Karen Paulk, a math teacher, at

East Coffee. …

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