County returns to river ordinance in preparation of new season

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – As summer draws closer and some of the state’s COVID restrictions are loosening, Gilmer County is preparing for the coming summer with final notes and changes to the River Ordinance after their committee has completed its work.

The committee, consisting of Outfitters, property owners, Law Enforcement Officers, and county representatives, has presented changes to the ordinance and plans to improve the season while enforcing some of the ordinance laws that are already in place, such as no alcohol.

However, after the committee returned its proposals, the county has done more work on the ordinance as well. With plans to post signage and mark an area of no foot traffic to support buses entering and exiting and efforts in the Sheriff’s Office to post a deputy at take-out on Saturdays and Sundays, there is more changes coming as the county will be looking to use stamps instead of wristbands for people floating the river to show those utilizing an outfitter as well as help those floating match which buses they are to load on.

Board members have revisited the site location during their process and vowed to better clean the area of trash and debris in order to support some of the changes like having patrons stay behind a certain line, as previously stated in support of buses.

Additionally, the county is adding sequential number requirements to waivers to count the numbers of people on the river. Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson has made several references and statements showcasing a desire to better understand the impact these businesses are having on the rivers. Though in opposition to swapping out wristbands for stamps, she agreed to move forward with the board’s plans with hopes that a revisit could come should the county deem the stamps to be insufficient. One of very few dissentions among the board, much of the changes came to unanimous agreement from the commissioners.

Now, the county is moving to its next step with a Public Comments meeting set for March 11, 2021, at 5:30 p.m., half an hour before their regular March Meeting at 6 p.m. That Regular Meeting will also host the First Reading of the ordinance after these new changes, a requirement before the county can return in April for the Final Reading and a possible motion to approve the changes.

With months of work set into the ordinance from its early conceptions amid committee to seeing its process through the BOC now, the final adoption will be coming just in time for River Outfitters to really pick up with the heavy part of their season. More details are still being discussed on implementation as outfitters are raising questions on some people wanting to float the river very soon and some involving more online reservations with digital signatures on waivers. However, full implementation cannot be undertaken until final approval comes for the ordinances changes, meaning that outfitters are still currently operating under the old ordinance until that can happen.

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