Originally created 04/28/00

Canal to get good paddling



Originally built in 1845 to accommodate Augusta's transportation, hydropower and water needs, the Augusta Canal now serves another purpose.

It supports public radio.

Saturday, the Augusta Canal will be the site for the 13th annual Augusta Canal Cruise and Cookout, organized to raise funds and awareness for Peach State Public Radio's Augusta outlet, WACG-FM (90.7).

When WACG became part of the National Public Radio system in the mid-1980s, marketing representative Jeanie Allen was charged with raising the funds required to keep the station running. She soon found that the audience was too small to justify extensive corporate underwriting. To survive, the station had to raise its visibility.

"I was looking for an event that would bring attention to the expanded format of the station," she said. "At the same time, for years I had been trying to figure how to canoe the canal."

Evidently, it was a match made in heaven. This year, 140 canoes will make their way from the lock and dam head gates to Lake Olmstead. The event was moved from its usual location at Meadow Gardens because the lower end of the canal from Lake Olmstead into the city has been drained for maintenance.

This year organizers have opened the event to bicyclists, who will follow the canal towpath from Lake Olmstead and back.

While the event continues to be successful, Ms. Allen said, organizers are hesitant to expand it.

"When something is successful, I think the tendency is to make it bigger and bigger," she said. "But I think part of the fun with this is that it is so laid back. I think right now the tone is appealing to a lot of people who don't usually go to huge public events."

Proud of the event's safety record, Ms. Allen said that experts would be available to prevent any mishaps.

"We always have a lot of people on hand who have never been in a canoe or are not experienced paddlers," she said. "So it's good when you're getting in a canoe to have professionals there to help out."

The event also offers barbecue, music by Stardust and a variety of contests and prizes, including a Swifty kayak from American Wilderness Outfitters Limited and a Giant mountain bike from Andy Jordan's Bicycle Warehouse.

Paddling along

What: The 13th Annual Augusta Canal Cruise and Cookout

When: 1 p.m. Sunday; registration deadline is noon Saturday

Where: The Augusta Canal, between the head gates and Lake Olmstead

Admission: $40 per person for canoes, $20 per person for bicycling; barbecue alone, $15

Telephone: 823-0440

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or suhles@hotmail.com.