published Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Workers tackle West Chickamauga Creek logjam near Camp Jordan Park this weekend

By Gary Petty
Bill Moll looks over the logjam that tree-service employees and volunteers will clear this weekend on West Chickamauga Creek near Camp Jordan Park.
Bill Moll looks over the logjam that tree-service employees and volunteers will clear this weekend on West Chickamauga Creek near Camp Jordan Park.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Tree-service workers and experienced volunteers will tackle a formidable obstacle on West Chickamauga Creek near Camp Jordan Park this weekend.

"For years, a major logjam has developed along this section of creek, making it impossible to paddle the whole section without having to get out and drag one's canoe across slippery, deep mud and uneven footing in order to get around the jam," explained Jim Ledbetter, the coordinator for the three-day project.

The blockage includes trees up to three feet in diameter and trash such as plastic bottles.

Ledbetter said a 100-foot boom will be stretched at an angle across the creek downstream from the logjam in hopes that the loosened debris will move toward the creek bank, where volunteers will transport it to a boom truck. The debris then will be recycled or disposed of in a landfill.

Visible on Google Earth, the jam is located just upstream from where West Chickamauga Creek runs into South Chickamauga Creek, which ultimately empties into the Tennessee River about 13 miles away. Much of the 275 acres that make up Camp Jordan Park is defined by the two creeks.

The site being cleared is in the same area where skeletal remains of a human body were found during the Tennessee River Rescue last October.

Some volunteers this weekend will be working from canoes to clear low-hanging limbs and logs in the creek that are hazardous to newer paddlers.

"It will be wet, dirty work, but once this is done this community will have a very accessible venue for the most novice paddlers and a great opportunity for schools and youth groups to see the outdoors as they never have before," Ledbetter said.

Big Woody's Tree Service will be cutting the logs with plans to move them and the chippings into nearby woods for animal habitat.

"We are going to bring in a John Deere log skidder. This machine has a large winch and rotation grapple," Big Woody's owner Cody Watkins said.

Some of the tree-removal employees will have to stand in the water and hook the large cables around the trees, he noted, adding that the city of East Ridge will have to do some bulldozing to get the skidder in place next to the creek.

Watkins said the plan is to move the equipment into place today and do the cutting and removing Friday and Saturday.

He estimated that the logjam includes about 15 dump-truck loads of logs and trash.

"This is definitely one of those jobs where you have to have the right equipment," he said.

"This has turned out to be much more of a job than we originally thought," said Sandy Kurtz, co-chairman of the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway Alliance. "The logjam has long been a delay in establishing a blueway for the West Chickamauga Creek. This will allow this to happen."

The alliance is comprised of people concerned about an estimated 463 miles of streams that include the South Chickamauga, West Chickamauga, Peavine, Tiger, Little Chickamauga and East Chickamauga creeks.

AkzoNobel Surface Chemistry is funding most of the tree removal with an estimated cost of $7,000. That company has supported the Tennessee River Rescue for more than 20 years, Ledbetter said.

East Ridge is developing a 2 1/2-mile canoe trail at Camp Jordan with a constructed put-in and take-out at either end.

"Several organizations have been pooling their resources in an effort to give the community this unique, easily accessible recreational opportunity," Ledbetter said. "One of the unique features is that the creek meanders in such a way that the put-in and take-out are both on Camp Jordan property and are only a few hundred yards apart, allowing paddlers to take the paved walking trail back to where they put in."

"The park will soon have one rebuilt canoe ramp and a new one as well," said East Ridge Parks and Recreation director Martin "Stump" Martin, adding that they will be called the Creek and Cherokee ramps in honor of area Indian tribes of long ago.

The Lyndhurst Foundation is providing funding for the two ramps. A $75,000 landscaping project in the area of the canoe trail also is planned for completion this summer, Martin said.

Other entities taking part in the project include the Tennessee Valley Canoe Club, the American Canoe Club, the Hamilton County Water Quality staff, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and L.L.Bean.

Contact Gary Petty at sports@timesfreepress.com.

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