Committee takes walking tour of Chattahoochee River, discusses a potential walking trail

Published 8:00 am Thursday, February 1, 2024

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LANETT — A City of Lanett planning committee met with a landscape architect on Tuesday to take a walking tour of a site near the Chattahoochee River that could be developed as a public park. Brandon Bias of Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood talked to members of the committee about the process involved in developing the site. Some of the land being looked at is owned by the city and some by the Chattahoochee Valley Water Supply District.

“I was very pleased at the way everything went,” said Planning Committee Chairman Tony Malone. “We just need to agree on a plan, have it in writing and seek grants for it.”

West Point is looking at having a walking trail that would head south along the west bank of the river. This is the westernmost point of the Chattahoochee and the place where West Point got its name in 1832. If a plan is implemented in West Point, a walking trail could extend across the state line into Lanett, contingent upon the city developing an approved plan. It’s possible for a three-city walking trail along the river to emerge from this. It could conceivably start at the West Point river park, pass through the Lanett area and end up at the Shawmut airport site.

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“We have been working on grant funding for this through the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Agency,” Malone said. “We are working on a master plan for the site. Everyone is enthusiastic about this, and I appreciate all the input that has been given.”

Taking part in the walking tour were Mayor Jamie Heard, Patsy Lewis, Brandon Bagley, Code Enforcement Officer Johnny Wood, Recreation Director Trent McCants and Erica Greenwood of the Chambers County Development Authority.

“We appreciate the help we have gotten from the CCDA on this,” Malone said. “We also appreciate what they have been doing in the redevelopment of the Lanett Mill site. We’ve also been in contact with the Chattahoochee Valley Water Supply District about this. We would like to have something that draws people to the river for an enjoyable experience and has them coming back again and again in a safe, pleasant place to be with lots of greenspace.”

The planning committee is in the process of coming up with a formal plan to develop the site. 

The 50-arce site includes the historic Reed Pecan Grove, which includes pecan trees well over 100 years old. Committee members are looking at keeping them but with the smaller understory of trees and invasive species being removed.

According to records at Cobb Memorial Archives, the land was valued at $100,000 in 1907 with the trees alone worth over $50,000. It was a profitable operation at the time with the grove producing an estimated 25,000 pounds of pecans every year. At the time, a review by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that those trees could bear pecans for hundreds of years with yields increasing with age. Pests, diseases and lack of upkeep have combined to keep that outlook from being so rosy.

At one time, the Reed Pecan Company had an estimated 2,500 pecan trees on the site. R.M. Mitchell was the president and N.G. Long the secretary treasurer. The company had ambitious goals. In addition to cultivating and propagating pecan groves, they also wanted to develop orange, peach, apple and pear groves at appropriate locations.

Cobb Archives has a postcard that was mailed from Lanett to a person in Vermont in 1910. One side of the postcard has a color image of Lanett Mill and on the opposite side the woman who sent it is telling a close friend that her husband has been put in charge of a large pecan grove not far from the mill.

Despite the high optimism for the pecan grove in the early 1900s, it did not prove to be a profitable operation. In 1917, the property was conveyed to Lanett Cotton Mills. The grove was maintained for a number of years before becoming overgrown. Cobb Archives has a portfolio photograph of the Lanett Bleachery & Dye Works/Lanett Mill site taken from a low-flying airplane in 1923. The pecan grove was being well maintained at that time.

The river park site has another location that’s historically interesting. The site where Tanyard Creek flows into the river was at one time a very popular swimming site. Swimmers would sun themselves on a rock outcropping and swim in the cool water near the river, being careful not to get into the flow of the Chattahoochee. There’s a survey marker on the north bank of Tanyard Creek. It marks the location where two states, two cities and three counties come together. South of the marker the high water mark of the river is the boundary between Alabama and Georgia; north of this spot a diagonal line forms the boundary. Some of the large pecan trees have three red rings around them. The Corps of Engineers maintains the land from these rings back to the river. It’s part of the Corps’ continuing flood control mission. River bank areas have large stones to help prevent erosion.

“We would like to get something on paper about what can be done here,” Malone said. “I think we can preserve the historic pecan trees, keep the grass cut and remove some of the invasive species that have grown up here over the years. It would be great if we could have an inviting spot by the river where people could come and enjoy themselves in a safe, secure location by the river that runs through our two-state community. I think it would be a good idea for us to preserve the greenspace here while making it an educational experience for anyone who comes here.”

Malone added that it will take some effort on the part of Lanett residents to get it done but is confident the planning committee is prepared to see it through. 

“It won’t happen if we just sit back and wait for it to happen,” he said. “We have to do what it takes to make it happen. A development along the river in Lanett will be good for us all. We are seeking a new city park with walking trails, hiking trails, boat ramp access and areas for picnicking. That’s what we are pushing for.”