A new waterway in downtown Augusta?

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News 12 at 6 o'clock, August 22, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---The idea of turning two streets into canals got the 6 votes it needed to advance at Tuesday's commission meeting. Now Andy Cheek's Ellis Street Option is one step closer to becoming a reality.

Chris Brigdon works at a local sporting goods store. He's been in the business for a little over two years. He says he's excited about the possible waterway. "I think it would be great for Augusta to have another form of recreation other than just the natural waterway."

Commissioner Andy Cheek got the go-ahead Tuesday to find out how much the project would cost. The idea is to bring water to Ellis Street and 12th Street. The cost is between $25 and $50 million.

Barry White, president of the Augusta Convention and Visitor's Bureau, admits it's a lofty idea. "It's a big dream, it's a dream, but that's where the ideas start."

Tuesday's Commission decision brings what had been described as just a dream one step closer to reality. As of now Ellis Street is lined with abandoned buildings--about 80% of the buildings on the street are abandoned. Commissioner Cheek says, "This is an opportunity probably for the first time in one hundred years to take the vision of the canal our forefathers left us and grow that to where we can put the canal back to work."

But not everybody's sold on the project. John Roth works along the Augusta Canal as a tour guide. He says he has some concerns. "It is always something good to have fresh ideas, but I think that the Ellis Street canal would be a bad idea."

It's modeled off similar projects in Oklahoma City and San Antonio. In those places, streets are often lined with tourists. Brigdon says he looks forward to the day when Augusta can say the same. "It's great to see that they are putting money and time into recreation for the citizens."

We should say this is still in the planning stages. The next step is to go before the Commission to approve funding for the project.

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