Savannah River Keeper turning old junkyard into place that everyone can enjoy

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The Savannah River keeper’s 14-acre headquarters sits right in the heart of Downtown Augusta. The land also includes an old car parts junkyard.

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The Savannah River keeper has a hundred year lease on the property and is working to turn it back into a recreation corridor, a process that has not been easy.

“It’s a mountain to climb. This was an old car parts junkyard. It was used by Traffic and Engineering for the City after that. Unfortunately, it has been the victim of legal and illegal dumping for many years. So, we’re trying to reverse that,” said Tonya Bonitatibus, the Executive Director and River keeper for the Savannah River keeper.

Several things have been found during the clean-up process, including trash, boats, and some things found in your nightmares.

“I think that the creepiest thing that I’ve found here is once I found a doll leaning against a tree with only half of its hair. It was disturbing. It was about 3-foot tall. Just found a Mickey Mouse over in the corner. We’ve pulled hundreds and hundreds of tires off of this site, easily 10 to 20 tons of concrete. Easily 8 to 9 tons of shingles that were illegally dumped,” explained Bonitatibus.

Reporter: “What you got there?”

“This is one of the really old Augusta Bricks that used to pave Downtown and a good majority of the Augusta area. So, this is a perfect example of abuse that happened on this property. What looks like rocks actually isn’t. These are all the insides of car parts, lots of metal, tires, and unfortunately this has all been dumped in to the water here on the entire property and actually extends up the bank,” said Bonitatibus.

The process has taken 10 years, but hopefully by Spring 2022, the area will take on a whole new life.

“The most exciting thing I think is that we have a disc golf course that will be coming here, open by Spring of next year. We have lots of fishing area, so there will be hopefully some good fishing piers. You already have bank fishing accessible. We have some canoe and kayak launches and some running trails. By revitalizing this we think it will help spur the revitalization of over a mile of riverfront; not into a river walk but an active river area. People can come engage in the river and use it for triathlons, use it for all of the various ways people want to use them, canoeing, kayaking, disc golf, and hopefully not only help spur the economy of Downtown Augusta but this whole East Augusta corridor, as well,” said Bonitatibus.

The process has been daunting, but if you’d like to take part in the clean-up, there’s always something you can do.

“Come be involved. We’ve been doing regular clean-ups here and there’s at least one a month if not two a month on Saturday. If you want to come and help out, we would love to have you. If you want to come and check it out, you’re more than welcome to. Our office is open most of the time. You’re welcome to come down. We’ll walk the back property with you, it’s still a little bit hazardous right now, and then you can also visit us at SavannahRiverKeeper.org and get regular updates or on Facebook,” explained Bonitatibus.

To find out more about how you can get involved, CLICK HERE.


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