It just seems natural

It broke Scott Hudson's considerable heart when he saw that the spring-fed aqueduct pool he would steal off to in his childhood had turned into an aque-dump.

But rather than shake his head and utter the time-honored "Somebody should do something," the local radio reporter and river lover rolled up his sleeves and sent out a call to action.

Now, 12 months and one week later, the "First Saturday" volunteer cleanup crew he inspired has returned the treasure by the canal to its natural state.

Last Wednesday, Hudson, along with former Augusta commissioner and canal champion Andy Cheek and other volunteers, gave the city its newest, and one of its oldest, parks.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver, several Augusta commissioners and others stepped gingerly down the rocky cavern -- it's not for the faint of foot -- to make speeches and take it all in.

Beautifully, and as if on cue, a couple was already enjoying a dip in the cool spring water as the press conference went on nearby.

Up the banks of a waterfall from the canal above, a bird of prey watched the goings-on, perhaps wondering where his old refrigerator had gone.

Well, to where it should have been taken all along: Hundreds of volunteers over the past year brought their pickups and time and energy to remove an estimated six tons of refrigerators, car batteries, blenders, bottles, cinder blocks, syringes -- even the front end of a Chevy.

The local government provided a crane, an oversized trash bin, some inmate labor -- less than $5,000 worth of help in all to help erase decades of dumping and overgrowth in the area where builders once used a wooden, then granite, aqueduct to channel Rae's Creek under the canal.

Now, the area, long ago dammed up to create Lake Olmstead, is channeling a more pastoral past.

Hudson has two goals: to see this kind of back-to-nature restoration all along the river downtown -- and to leave a better Augusta for his daughter, who he hopes will choose to live here when grown.

Actually, Hudson and crew have left a better Augusta for everyone.

Just as important, they demonstrrated the oft-forgotten principle that we can't sit back and rely on the government to just hand us the sort of community we want. Governments are set up to provide streets and sewers and security and such. But the real building blocks of of community come from the people themselves.

Mayor Copenhaver calls it a re-emergence of civic pride. "We are a can-do city, and this is a great example of that," he told the group.

First Saturday will continue to police the park, plant a few trees and bushes -- and they may need some signage and an easier decent. But they'll mostly let nature take its course.

Hudson says the aim should be that in five years the Savannah River corridor is like Augusta National -- just without the golf.

At these prices, why not?

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