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Photos submitted by Coosa County Sheriff’s Office
By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
Those enjoying Hatchet Creek next year will be able to do so with even more peace of mind thanks to planned additions along the creek.
Sheriff Michael Howell has spearheaded efforts to get creek markers to place along Hatchet Creek. The markers will help floaters easily know where they are on the creek.
Howell explained that the Sheriff’s Office has had to respond to numerous people lost on Hatchet Creek.
“It’s hard to manage how long you’re on the creek versus how long it takes to float the creek or a portion of it,” Howell said.
He said that people do not manage their time well when on the creek and end up still being on the water when it gets dark. They then have a difficult time getting back, which has resulted in numerous people being stranded on the water.
Howell said with this in mind, he decided it would be a good idea to have a way for those on Hatchet Creek to identify where they are. The goal is to place creek markers every half mile from where the creek enters Coosa County all the way to Double Bridges in the Richville community.
The plan is to have everything ready to begin placing the markers by next spring, in time to help floaters at the beginning of the season.
Howell said he worked with Coosa County Extension Office Coordinator Sharon Haynes, EMA Director Sheldon Hutcherson, E-911, and other volunteers for this endeavor. This group formed the Coosa County Association of Scenic Waterways, or CCASW.
Howell said they hope to be able to get grant funding to help with the purchase and placement of the signs. The CCASW is getting membership into the Alabama Scenic River Trail.
Howell said they can then apply for a grant through the ASRT to provide the signs for free, meaning there will be no cost to the county for this project.
As progress continues to be made, Howell said anyone interested in helping, whether to go out and place signs or to help prepare, is asked to contact him at 256-377-4922 to volunteer.
Howell has personal experience floating Hatchet Creek and knows how difficult it can be to lose track of time and how people could lose their way along the creek.
“As someone who has floated the creek before, you have to think, ‘Do I have time to float 9 miles?’” Howell said, mentioning the time frames for how long various trips can take. “Some spots [along the creek] have cell service and some don’t. It’s hard to know how far you’ve been and how far you still have to go.”
The creek markers will not only help floaters know where they are, but it will also be helpful for first responders. If someone is stranded or has a medical situation or other emergency, the markers will help the individual know where to tell first responders they are so that responders can locate them faster and get to them quicker.
Additionally, Howell said with those who own property on Hatchet Creek that it would be an asset if the Sheriff’s Office has their contact information in case of emergencies.
He added that this would not mean their property would be a take out point, but that it would allow first responders quicker access from land in case of a medical emergency. Any property owners along Hatchet Creek willing to share their contact information with the sheriff for that purpose is asked to contact him at 256-377-4922.
While steps continue to be taken to get creek markers ready for next year, Howell said that they are in the process of getting coordinates of where the signs will need to be placed.
“I appreciate all the people who have volunteered to help out,” Howell said. “I look forward to improving the ways we respond to emergencies on the creek.”