Since the mid 1990’s, the Broad River in Madison County has been a summer hotspot for locals from Athens and all over Northeast Georgia. The river has been a haven for those looking for a place to cool off and enjoy their favorite beverage all while kayaking down the river with friends. After more than twenty years, this local pastime may quickly be coming to an end due to a new local ordinance passed by the Madison County Board of Commissioners.
The ordinance is intended to address several riverfront property owners’ complaints about littering and trespassing by river-goers. The law bans the three main kayak rental outposts from allowing customers to bring “glass, plastic, Styrofoam or metal [coolers] and containers known as cups, bottles or cans” onto the river. Customers are only allowed to bring one metal or plastic bottle, 2-liter maximum, with them once the law takes effect next year.
However, not all riverfront property owners are onboard with the ordinance. Michael Moody, owner of Broad River Outpost for almost 20 years, fears that the end may be near for his small business. He has already seen a drastic decrease in his business this time of year compared to years past, due to misinformation swirling in the public about when the ban goes into effect. Some people believe its gone into effect and do not know it’s not until the new year that it will be enforced. “It’s already had an effect. My business at this time of the year is probably a quarter of what it would be,” Moody says. “I’m pretty well convinced that if I don’t go out of business then it’s going to be a little one horse operation as opposed to what I’ve spent 35 years trying to make into a decent living.”
“It’s already had an effect. My business at this time of the year is probably a quarter of what it would be.”
Moody believes there are other motives behind the new ordnance than just litter clean up and trespassing. He sees the ordinance as a way to tackle the excess alcohol consumption that takes place on the river.
“Up until recently Madison County was a dry county… so they would just assume that there would be no alcohol period,” Moody says.
The ordinance does not call for a complete ban due to Georgia law, but Moody fears that the problem could actually get worse. “People will put a full bottle of liquor in their back pocket or bring a two-liter growler they will still come down,” he says. “Those guys are using litter as their cover, because that’s already a state law. The real issue is that there is no enforcement. You can float down the river all day and throw all the stuff you want in the water and no one is going to arrest you.”
Madison County Commissioner Chairman, John Scarborough, denies those accusations and believes that if it’s truly about the river then it’s up to the outpost to adapt. “It’s unfortunate if the business is centered around the use of a cooler,” Scarborough says. “We aren’t trying to purposely put anyone out of business.”
Moody’s greatest tool right now has been the power of social media. He intends to draw as much publicity for his case as he can. He has turned to Facebook to voice his concerns and spread the word to his customers in hopes they join the fight as well, and many have answered the call.
He remains committed to fight for his business and plans to consult lawyers if need be. He believes there is a way to come to a compromise on the ordinance by limiting the size of the coolers customers can use. “There are ways to mitigate it. There are ways we can kind of do the best we can. We just need to work together on this,” Moody says.