Mornings along the Augusta Canal are quiet. Just ask Brian Edmonds.
"You see a lot of deer on weekdays," he said. "The people come out later."
Edmonds, a 31-year-old Augusta native, is the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area's first park ranger. He was hired for the new position last month from a field of 93 applicants.
"It's a lot of maintenance-type work," he said. "I mow the grass, look for trash, keep the signs and fences in good shape."
But the position also involves working with the public and offers plenty of opportunities to simply be outdoors. Edmonds also catches litterbugs, warns visitors about unleashed pets and is stalking a ring of graffiti artists.
"One of the messages I'm trying to get across is about litter," he said. "My philosophy is `pack it in, pack it out."'
The canal has always been a favorite escape for Edmonds.
"Most people don't even know about this place," he said, gesturing across the canal's headgates to the Savannah River. "I love coming out here. I've always enjoyed it."
Edmonds' previous position was operations manager for Augusta's Trees & Landscape Department, where he became a certified arborist and trained intensively in landscaping and pesticide application.
He's putting those talents to good use as the canal's park ranger, having already planted oaks and magnolias as part of beautification and improvements under way at the Waterworks Pumping Station parking area.
Edmonds also loves history - he is completing a degree in history from Augusta State University.
So far, he said, he is enjoying his new uniform - shorts and a cotton shirt with the Augusta Canal logo embroidered onto the pocket. The Canal Authority even bought him a new patrol vehicle: a mountain bike.
Future plans call for adding a second ranger, most likely a part-time position, said Dayton Sherrouse, the Canal Authority's executive director.
"We need to have someone else part-time to get seven days of coverage during the busy times in the summer and fall," he said.
An existing brick building on the National Hills side of the canal near the city pumping station is being remodeled as a ranger's office. The building's central location will give Edmonds easy access to all parts of the canal.
The addition of a park ranger is one of many improvements under way at the Augusta Canal.
Work is continuing on 10,216-square-foot visitors center in the historic Enterprise Mill; tour boats are being planned that will take visitors on canal cruises; and a master redevelopment plan to add parking, bridges and trails in the headgates area will be implemented soon.
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