River Trail markers will help canoers, kayakers on Terrapin Creek
by Laura Johnson
Sep 10, 2012 | 5691 views |  0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Fred Couch of the Alabama Scenic River Trail shows one of the signs that will soon be posted along Terrapin Creek.
Fred Couch of the Alabama Scenic River Trail shows one of the signs that will soon be posted along Terrapin Creek.
Terrapin Creek will soon become safer for paddlers to navigate.

The Alabama Scenic River Trail organization is outfitting the creek with eight signs that will include safety suggestions, nearby attractions and, perhaps most importantly, a map. The signs will be posted across three counties — Calhoun, Cleburne and Cherokee.

“The whole thing is safety,” said Fred Couch of the Alabama Scenic River Trail.

As more and more people have begun flocking to the clear-water creek for paddle sports, including canoeing and kayaking, safety has become a concern for emergency responders such as Phillip Winkles. Winkles, chief of the Piedmont Rescue Squad, said his agency has had a difficult time locating stranded or injured paddlers along the creek in the past few years.

“The reference points are an outstanding idea and it’ll make our job a whole lot easier,” said Winkles. “It can be a huge benefit.”

An average float down the river takes most paddlers between four and eight hours, but in some cases it can take longer. Too often, Winkler said, the only points of reference along the rural creek are too vague to help safety workers reach injured or lost paddlers.

Winkles recalled a rescue two years ago in which three paddlers became lost in the woods following a paddling trip. Family members contacted 911 and a search crew looked for them well into the night, eventually finding them near the Redneck Yacht Club along the creek in the Piedmont area.

If the outdoor adventurers had had maps along the creekside, they might not have become lost, Winkles said.

In another instance, emergency workers struggled to find a group of paddlers from Birmingham after one of them was injured. It took 45 to 90 minutes to find the five-person group because the out-of-town paddlers did not know where they were.

The signs will cost the River Trail group roughly $150 each. They are being funded with money left over from a grant allocation that it received nearly two years ago.

That grant, $26,000 from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs to improve put-in and take-out locations and to reduce erosion along a 50-mile stretch of the Terrapin, was later supplemented by a grant extension of $1,000.

However, not all of the money from the original grant could be used at the sites selected because some are privately owned and property owners didn’t want to release their land for use by the river trail. The river trail’s organizers used the leftover funds to place signs along the creek.

In addition to creating safer conditions, the signs are important, according to organizers, because they provide “mental access” to the creek. Boat rental companies and camping can be found in the area that the signs will be posted. Owners of some of those establishments say signage will improve paddling on the creek. What’s good for the creek is good for business, they note.

“The more information we can provide to tourists and locals using the creeks, the more enjoyable it will be for all,” said Charlie Fagan, owner of the Chief Ladiga Trail Campground. “It was very important for our community to get Terrapin Creek included in the Alabama Scenic River Trail.”

Star staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.
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