Restored Augusta Canal headgates opened for first time

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November 12, 2006

Today is the ten year anniversary of the Augusta Canal's designation as a National Heritage Area.

The Canal Authority has worked hard for over ten years now to restore the Canal, and today the group and the community got to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Nothing had ever passed through the Canal headgates in the 21st century until today.

Susan Brinkley's family history is rooted in the canal. Her grandfather was the master mechanic for the Augusta mill.

"Today when I was looking down as the opened the gates, I could visualize my daddy at 12 years old going through, I could actually see him," she said. "And I felt my grandfather around me all day today, and I can see him smiling down on us. It was a really special day...

It was also a day that took a long time to get here. The Augusta Canal Authority has spent ten years lobbying for funds to restore the Canal. One important project was to renovate the headgates

"The locks over time had deteriorated because of lack of use," explained Bob Woodhurt, chairman of the Canal Authority.

Dennis Gruba says he remembers the Canal's darker days.

"We came here 15 years ago and it was in terrible disrepair," he said. "Whoever's in charge of this did a really great job and I personally appreciate it."

"This indicates an institution that can bring Augusta alive again for entertainment and for history," said Capt. Wade Hammer of the Canal Authority.

And besides a wet start for one kayaker, for most, the day was filled with adventure, dancing, quality family time, and new beginnings.

"Most people don't realize what they have until you lose it, and I think what has been good is people have come forward to help you save something so that the future can appreciate what the past has been," said David Lobb of Aiken.

In addition to the headgates being opened, a new pedestrian bridge was dedicated at the mouth of Reed Creek.