LEESBURG — Men like Jim Wright, who quietly but steadfastly do their work behind the scenes, typically toil in anonymity. It was especially gratifying, then, that the Lee County Code Enforcement Officer and Lee County Rivers Alive Coordinator was announced Tuesday as one the honorees of the Georgia Water Coalition’s annual “Clean 13.”

Each year the GWC honors 13 groups or individuals that have a positive impact on the protections and preservation of Georgia’s water resources. Wright was recognized for his long-time work on the Kinchafoonee and Muckalee creeks in Lee County.

“Many of the successes we have had in protecting and improving our water resources are due to partnerships with such groups as the Flint Riverkeeper, the Artesian Alliance, the Boy Scouts of America, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and other groups,” Wright said, deflecting praise away from himself. “These groups can always be counted on to help with Lee County water projects.”

While Wright’s work typically involves on-the-job inspections of stormwater erosion and sedimentation and other potential water pollution issues, he does far more than that for Lee County.

He has led numerous efforts, while on the job and on his personal time, to help remove trash from area waterways. River’s Alive Lee County is now in the 14th years of this effort and has collected more than 66,000 pounds of debris from local waterways. One of the most memorable removals was the retrieval of an escaped Dumpster taken from the Kinchafoonee Creek following a March 2020 flood.

Wright also has led efforts to establish the Kinchafoonee and Muckalee Water Trail systems by placing kiosks, life jacket stations and boat ramps at several places on the creeks, including the much-used Sutton’s Landing.

The Lee Code Enforcement officer also has led the effort to install mile markers along the most used paddling sections of the creek, which have aided fishermen, paddlers, and even swimmers in knowing their creek location. These markers have aided Lee County EMS in rescue efforts of some folks in trouble on the creek.

Under Wright’s leadership, Lee County also has donated equipment to Flint Riverkeeper and Chehaw Park to help improve their operations. In turn, Chehaw Park donated some damaged picnic table frames to Lee County, and the Boy Scouts helped repair these tables for use all across Lee County parks.

“If we had 38 Jim’s in the rest of the Flint counties, we would not have any problems in the basin and could pack up and go home,” Gordon Rogers, executive director of Flint Riverkeeper, said.

Wright currently is leading efforts to improve the Pirate’s Cove Nature Park and the fledgling 100-acre park in Lee County for additional water access and visitation.

“We hope to have the new kayak/canoe slips installed by the DNR at both these sites soon,” Wright said of that proposed project. “Opening the picnic area and trails at the new park along the Kinchafoonee Creek is a high priority for us in the coming months.”

Officials with conservation groups in the region say Wright’s service in improving and protecting water resources in Lee County can be used as a model for the rest of Georgia.

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