Hazel Langrall sees a bright future for Butler Creek and the community it serves.
“Augusta has the canal, and North Augusta has the Greeneway,” she said. “So why not south Augusta, too?”
This fall, the Central Savannah River Land Trust will open the first link in a planned network of trails designed to showcase the creek’s natural beauty and preserve its historic charm.
“When the city first got this property, it was full of trash – tons of trash,” said Langrall, the trust’s executive director.
Five years of planning, combined with a $100,000 state grant and generous aid from volunteer groups, helped create the Lombard Mill Pond Trail, which meanders along a revegetating floodplain off Deans Bridge Road.
From a trail head on Old Highway 1, the paved entrance leads to a handicapped accessible entrance with a boardwalk and deck overlooking the site of Lombard Pond, where a 19th-century grist mill and granary once thrived.
Today, its moss-covered ruins include ancient beams, iron machinery and layers of brick worn smooth by a century of water.
The pond is long gone, having been drained when portions of the dam were removed decades ago. Today, the creek meanders through its open plain packed with wildflowers and aquatic vegetation.
“If you look at this area, it’s a visual of how man can affect nature, and how nature can recover and take control again,” Langrall said.
The land trust, which manages the city of Augusta’s green-space program, hopes to tie the Lombard Mill Pond site with other parcels along Butler Creek to create a network of trails that will extend from Fort Gordon to Phinizy Swamp and the Savannah River.
The current trail, just longer than a quarter mile, will someday be expanded with bridges and boardwalks to become 2.5 miles. More trails can be added.
To complete the entire corridor, the trust would need access to almost 600 acres. About 411 acres along the creek are owned by the trust or under easements that will prevent them from being developed.
Although recreation is a facet of the trust’s mission of protecting stream buffers, preserving riparian pathways also has important environmental benefits.
“When you keep buffers natural, it helps filter the water supply and improves water quality,” she said. “In developed areas, there is so much stuff flowing into it from neighborhoods, highways and backyards.”
A ribbon-cutting is planned for Oct. 19, but residents may use the area now, including parking pads at the trail head.
“We have a wonderful resource here,” she said. “People just need to have a way to access it.”