LaGRANGE — A crowd of about 50 people gathered at Highland Marina at 11 a.m. Thursday for the dedication and christening of “Miss Sally,” the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s new floating classroom.
“I’m really proud of this,” said Henry Jacobs, outreach manager for Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.
According to Jason Ulseth of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, the floating classroom will serve students from public and private schools, scouts and kids’ clubs — students from kindergarten through college.
“In fact, my first personal interaction with Chattahoochee Riverkeeper was in 2002 when my University of Georgia hydrology class came aboard the floating classroom on Lake Lanier through the water-quality education program,” said Ulseth. “It had a long lasting impact on me.”
Ulseth went on to say that the floating classroom will also serve other areas of the community by serving civic organizations.
In his comments, Mayor Jim Thornton said West Point Lake is a great resource to the community.
“If you are like me and just like hanging out on the lake, it is a great recreation resource,” Thornton said. “If you are a fisherman, you know that it is a great fishing resource and has been a great fishery over the years.”
Thornton went on to say that the economic impact of West Point Lake was hundreds of millions of dollars.
“But like any great resource, the key to any great resource is constant, vigilant stewardship,” Thornton said. “You have to be working on a daily basis to maintain the asset that you have. … The key to maintaining that constant stewardship is going to be education. … I firmly believe that through ‘Miss Sally,’ and through the work and the classroom experiences that are going to occur on ‘Miss Sally,’ we’re going to be growing future river keepers here in LaGrange, Georgia, and on West Point Lake.”
The classroom’s name is a reference to Sally Bethea, founder of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, who retired last year.
The $96,000 project was supported in part by the Callaway Foundation of LaGrange, which gave the Riverkeeper a matching grant, according to Jason Ulseth of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.
The 5,500-pound, triple-pontoon boat has already taken six classes out on the lake. Every detail of the boat was custom designed for the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s floating classroom.
James Morton is a reporter at LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2154.