River Canal Is Ignored as an Attraction; Glynn County Official Wants Shopping Center near Brunswick to Enhance Waterway

By Morrison, Mike | The Florida Times Union, October 4, 2015 | Go to article overview

River Canal Is Ignored as an Attraction; Glynn County Official Wants Shopping Center near Brunswick to Enhance Waterway


Morrison, Mike, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Mike Morrison

BRUNSWICK | With the ongoing construction of the Canal Crossing shopping center, another place will get its name from the Brunswick-Altamaha River Canal that skirts the development to west.

But the waterway that was built in the 19th century by slave and immigrant Irish laborers otherwise is pretty much neglected.

The county has talked for decades about turning the canal into an ecotourism attraction, acknowledging its ecological and historical significance, but the project has never progressed further than erecting a few commemorative roadside signs.

The shopping center, however, provides the county with a means of jump-starting the project, one area resident said.

Julian Smith, a St. Simons Island resident with an interest in local government issues, suggested to the County Commission during its regular meeting Thursday that it consider providing public access to the canal from the shopping center parking lot across land on which the county holds a utilities easement.

The shopping center, he said, stretches along nearly a half-mile of the canal's western embankment.

"Currently, the developers plan no access to the canal or its embankment," Smith said, adding that the shops, which will include a Sam's Club as an anchor store, "will turn their backs on the canal."

"This is a wonderful opportunity for historic and ecological tourism," he added.

Actually, the back of the center already is turned to the canal and crews work taking down trees and doing other site work.

The canal, completed in 1854, flopped as a business venture as railroads began to haul cargo and passengers from town to town, and has served as little more than a drainage ditch since, Smith said.

Indeed, in most places it's little more than a linear swamp as it runs from Brunswick to the boggy wetlands on the southern banks of the Altamaha River.

Environmental activist James Holland has expressed concern that runoff from the shopping center parking lot could negatively impact the tidal creek that the canal has become.

Among the first things built in the construction, however, were containment ponds to catch runoff from the parking lot. …

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