2018-08-08 / Front Page

Beaver dams have major impact on viability of Lake

(Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a two-part series addressing issues, including beaver dams, that can be found in Jones Lake in Waynesboro.)

Jones Lake has been a central fixture in Waynesboro since the mid-1950s. Fisherman can cast off its banks in a couple of places and numerous alligators use it as their own personal resort destination. To the average passerby, the lake appears to be like any other, but don’t let the placid water fool you. Beneath the serene surface lie water hazards that prevent people from enjoying the recreational activities that were once common.

The lake, situated off South Liberty

Street, is not owned by the City of Waynesboro, as many residents believe, but by the Community Betterment Council. According to the council’s president, Carol Jones, the land for the lake was donated by the family of the late John J..Jones. County maps show Mr. Jones' estate still own approximately 10 acres of land through which McIntosh Creek runs. This creek is one of two which feed Jones Lake, and Carol Jones (no relation to John J. Jones) claims it’s a major culprit in causing these water hazards. She recalled that decades ago, boaters, water skiers and fishermen abounded on the docile water. Recreation, as it was back in the day, is no longer a viable option due to dangerously shallow water. Jones stated, “Water levels are as low as twelve inches in many areas of the lake. Some places are knee deep.” She believes the beavers have a lot to do with that.

As reported last week, McIntosh Creek has been plagued by beavers for more than 30 years. The city has attempted, over the last three decades, to keep the beaver dams open and the beaver population in control, all to no avail. Because of the dams, the creek has re-routed itself and has overrun its banks every time there is any major rainfall. The water collects in the surrounding swampy area and washes over into the lake. Mrs. Jones said, “We can sit on our dock and watch the sediment wash in and begin to settle. It makes the lake only a foot deep in many places. On one side of our dock it’s about six feet deep and on the other side it is ankle deep.”

The lake is barely navigable now, and over the years, there has been significant public outcry to remedy the beaver issues, which would, in turn, at least slow down the negative impact on the lake. In a perfect world, keeping the lake sufficiently and healthily fed, as well as navigable for fishing and recreational boaters, would be ideal. Figuring out who is responsible for ensuring such things is quite another problem.

The water issues are the concern of four major players, including; the owners of property surrounding the lake, the Community Betterment Council, landowner Seaborn Jones and the City of Waynesboro. Each player is affected differently, and each has its own ideas as to how to remedy the problem.

The property owners are tired of the decades-long battle with backed up water from the creek, as well as the expenses they have incurred in relation to it. Therefore, some property owners have made it their mission to raise public awareness, others have lobbied the city council and city administrator, while others have, at their own expense, called in and paid professionals to remedy the beaver problem.

The council has watched the lake slip into becoming an unusable asset and slowly lose its potential to be a vibrant centerpiece of our city. Upon the recent death of Marvin Saxon, the council’s longstanding president, a new slate of officers was elected as follows: President – Carol Jones, Vice President – Jerry Coalson, Secretary – Jeanie Saxon Blackburn, and Treasurer – Danny Bonnell. Under the new leadership the council has begun limited maintenance on the lake, having little money with which to battle the water level and sediment issues which significantly reduce recreational use of Jones Lake.

“As a domestic non-profit, the council derives revenue from member dues. The membership has, until recently, been comprised primarily of homeowners whose property borders the lake, along with residents in the surrounding neighborhoods,” Mrs. Jones said, adding that at the last meeting, the council voted to open membership to the general public. “Revenue from new member dues, $30 for an individual and $50 for a couple, will help us build up our treasury so we can do more.”

Seaborn Jones has, over the years, given the City of Waynesboro permission to do work on his property, as they see fit, to remedy the beaver problem. As the City has decided to discontinue its efforts to do so, it is unclear at this time whether or not he will work with other property owners or the council to have work done in the future.

The City of Waynesboro has not only busted dams and trapped beavers for decades, they also have given money to the Community Betterment Council regularly through the years. Though they have decided to discontinue their prior work as of this year, they haven’t put the issue to bed. City manager Jerry Coalson said, “Our engineer is working to set-up a meeting with a lake and pond environmental expert to discuss the cost of obtaining a permit to trench the McIntosh Creek after it crosses Fourth Street to the lake.” They are not only willing to help remedy a portion of the creek issues, but are willing to do some footwork in preparation for possibly working on the lake, as well. Continued Coalson, “We will also see if he can determine the approximate cost to permit and then dredge the lake as well. The expert recently finished the lake at Georgia Southern. We are hoping to meet with him in the next few weeks.”

With persistent property owners, the Council being under new leadership and opening membership to the public, and the city stepping up to assume what can only be described as a major undertaking, it seems there may be a resolution in sight. If everything works out it may not be long before the citizens of Waynesboro are boating, fishing and water skiing on Jones Lake. Now, if only someone could do something about those alligators!

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