Hitchcock Creek: ‘trail of discovery’

City officials, dignitaries declare Hitchcock Creek open to paddlers

* Video – approaching Steele Street access
* Video – Cutting the ribbon (quality lower than usual as camera took a dip in the creek)
* Photo gallery – more than 350 photos – download for free!

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

ROCKINGHAM — Tuesday was a good day to be connected to the city of Rockingham.

Some might point out that any day is such a day, but for the dozens gathered ’round at the old Pee Dee Mill site at 615 Steele St., there couldn’t have been one better. At 4 p.m., dozens of local officials, city employees and dignitaries far and wide gathered to celebrate the official ribbon-cutting for Hitchcock Creek, a 3.67-mile stretch of blue trail from the Roberdel access point off Nicholson Road to downtown Rockingham.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Rockingham Mayor Steve Morris guides his kayak through some rapids as he approaches the take-out point along Hitchcock Creek at Steele Street.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Rockingham Mayor Steve Morris guides his kayak through some rapids as he approaches the take-out point along Hitchcock Creek at Steele Street.

The ceremony marked the effort that goes back to a vision City Manager Monty Crump had around 2001.

“This is a long journey that we’ve been on,” said Michael “Squeak” Smith, board chairman for Resource Institute Inc. Resource Institute was one of more than three dozen partners, including government agencies, private foundations and businesses as well as individuals, who helped make the vision a reality.

“”We’re close to the end in sight,” said Smith, who noted about $600,000 — which could be obtained within the next two months — is still needed to complete stream restoration in some parts.

Crump opened the ceremony with words of welcome, thanks and a bit of incredulity that the vision came to life.

“Pulling this project together, with all of these moving parts, has been incredible,” Crump said. “I’m speaking to folks who don’t need to be told this … it’s just phenomenal what the results are.”

The results include a clean waterway, transformed from its heyday of industrial use into a paddler’s dream. It could soon become a nationally renowned blue trail as an American Rivers film crew shot video throughout Tuesday’s trip down Hitchcock Creek. Coupled with a project in South Carolina and another out west, the three projects serve as models for other communities.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Rockingham City Manager Monty Crump, left, addresses the crowd of local leaders and dignitaries, many of whom played a role, large or small, in the transformation of Hitchcock Creek.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Rockingham City Manager Monty Crump, left, addresses the crowd of local leaders and dignitaries, many of whom played a role, large or small, in the transformation of Hitchcock Creek.

In 2006, the Hitchcock Creek Watershed Action Plan established the foundation for all subsequent work along Hitchcock Creek — which, when the last dam is removed, is a project totaling some $2.3 million. Of interest, the plan documented the good water equality in Hitchcock Creek.

In 2009, the removal of Steele’s Mill Dam in Cordova marked the first construction project in an effort to open Hitchcock Creek to public navigation and re-establish historic fish runs from the Pee Dee River. In 2011, a debris removal project significantly improved the safety and pleasure for navigation along 10 miles of Hitchcock Creek and marked the first efforts of this type in more than 30 years.

In 2011, the city finalized acquisition of approximately 83 acres of the old Pee Dee Lake bed along Hitchcock Creek for the purpose of developing a greenway and passive recreation area. In 2012, constructed commenced on the first phase of Hitchcock Creek’s Greenway, including more than 6,000 feet of improved walking trails and three pedestrian bridges over the creek.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Erin Singer McCombs, of American Rivers, navigates a rough patch with ease during a Tuesday afternoon kayaking trip along Hitchcock Creek.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Erin Singer McCombs, of American Rivers, navigates a rough patch with ease during a Tuesday afternoon kayaking trip along Hitchcock Creek.

The project wouldn’t have happened without a wide spirit of cooperation, said Mayor Steve Morris.

“But let’s set the record straight — we wouldn’t be here today had it not been for Monty Crump,” Morris said.

Morris described Crump as an animal tracking a scent he “would not let die” as the longtime city employee worked with private, local, state and federal officials to move the project forward.

William Robert “Bob” Irvin, president and CEO of American Rivers, finished the kayak trip by noting the “amazing achievement.”

Irvin marked that blue trails often become a “great trail of discovery.”

“Our hats are off to all of you,” Irvin said.

 

 

Filed in: Business, Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Outdoors

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