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Monday, November 5, 2012

Confederate Reunion Grounds Hosts Navasota River Cleanup

By Dixie Hoover, Confederate Reunion Grounds Site Manager

Confederate Reunion Grounds State Historic Site partnered with Fort Parker State Park to participate in the National Public Lands Day (NPLD) annual event “Helping Hands for America’s Lands” on Saturday, September 29. NPLD has been held since 1994, and is the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer event for public lands. The 2012 event was the largest in NPLD history, with about 175,000 volunteers participating at 2,206 sites throughout every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.

Volunteers in Limestone County participated to help clean up the Limestone Bluffs Paddling Trail on the Navasota River, a five-mile stretch between the Confederate Reunion Grounds and Fort Parker State Park that also includes the 750-acre Fort Parker Lake. The cleanup included the waterway, river banks, and lake shoreline.

Limestone Bluffs Paddling Trail (courtesy TPWD)

Scout Troop 258 from Corsicana arrived Friday evening to camp overnight at the Confederate Reunion Grounds.

Scouts camping

Early Saturday morning, other volunteers gathered with the Scouts for coffee and donuts beneath the historic 1893 dance pavilion before launching canoes and kayaks to head down river.

Coffee and donuts beneath pavilion

Several years ago, site maintenance staff constructed a launch to help paddlers access the river and get canoes and kayaks down the steps that remain from the historic 1920s bathhouse. Volunteers for the NPLD event were very appreciative of the launch as they moved numerous canoes used for the event from the trailers into the river.

Canoe launch

Once canoes were brought down to the launch, they were carried to the lower historic dam to set into the river. At the end of the summer (before autumn rains), the river is typically low between the two historic dams built in the 1920s at the Confederate Reunion Grounds, and access to the main river channel for canoes and kayaks is easiest by launching below the “blown out” dam. This dam was blown out during the severe drought of the 1950s due to being Groesbeck’s drinking water and Texas water rights laws.

Canoes carried to lower dam
Canoes set into river

Despite light, steady rains and lower participation than anticipated, 24 dedicated volunteers persevered through less-than-ideal conditions to remove trash from the river, its banks, and trees. Paddlers left the Confederate Reunion Grounds around 8 a.m. and arrived at Fort Parker State Park around noon. Trash removed included two televisions, three tires, and 12 large trash bags filled with bottles, cans, plastic bags, hay bale wraps, and numerous other items that wash downriver when it floods. One extremely dedicated volunteer even removed the remains of a deer from the river! Some items had to be left behind because they were unsafe for volunteers to remove from high in trees, or they were buried too deep in mud.

Paddlers on river
Paddlers on river

Everyone involved has already committed to participating in the 20th anniversary of NPLD on September 28, 2013. In addition to keeping the Limestone Bluffs Paddling Trail beautiful and clean of trash and debris, it is also important for the health of the river and the wildlife that lives in and uses its resources. Additionally, residue from up-river trash and debris ends up in Groesbeck’s drinking water.

Be sure and watch for the 2013 Limestone Bluffs Paddling Trail annual cleanup event and other upcoming events on our website!

Confederate Reunion Grounds State Historic Site is located southwest of Mexia on FM 2705 in the Texas Brazos Trail Region.

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