MCCRACKEN COUNTY - Bright and early Saturday morning, October 13th, Ron Ray noticed something unusual.
Around 7 a.m., a couple of trucks pulled off the road near the Sheehan Bridge which is adjacent to his farm in the Reidland area of McCracken County.
Nothing to be alarmed about he decided and continued his morning routine.
By 8:30 a.m. there was a trailer of nine canoes, several private vehicles with kayak racks on top, a portable toilet, and about 40 people meandering around laughing and preparing food.
Curiosity got the better of him and he decided to investigate. As he approached the area, he encountered Kevin Murphy, President of the Jackson Purchase Foundation board of directors.
The Jackson Purchase Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, nongovernmental organization (NGO) working in Ballard, Calloway, Carlisle, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Marshall, and McCracken counties in western Kentucky.
JPF works with local citizens and community leaders to develop ideas, build partnerships, find funding, and implement projects that improve the quality of life for citizens of the Jackson Purchase region.
Murphy, an avid outdoorsman, has canoed the waters of the Clark’s River many times in the past and had recently begun to work through JPF to develop interest and funding to install at least three launch sites along the Clark’s River for his fellow canoeists and kayakers.
By selling raffle tickets for two kayaks at the recent BBQ on the River event in Paducah and donations from several local businesses, including Florence and Hutcheson, Atlas Roofing, Mike Petter Septic Service, Croft Concrete and Kingston Portables, the foundation was able to raise enough money to install concrete stairs and a sign at the Sheehan Bridge site, print shirts for the event, and provide homemade chili and hot dogs for the participants.
As the first excursion departed for the six-mile paddle, Mr. Ray offered the group the use of his heavy equipment if necessary. "I am glad to see someone use the Clark's River for something other than a place to dump garbage. It's about time someone did something like this."
This project is in its first phase with at least one additional launch sites planned further upstream. One site will be established on property owned by McCracken County, off of Said Road. JPF also hopes to have a site on property owned by Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge, offering individuals several options for canoeing and kayaking.
To further their vision of “Sustainable Development in Harmony with our Environment”, the Jackson Purchase Foundation has many projects in varying stages. One of these projects is a partnership with the City of Benton, the Marshall County Conservation District, the Marshall County Arts Commission, Bacon Farmer Workman Engineering, Kentucky Ready-Mix Concrete Association and other to install the first pervious concrete in the state of Kentucky west of Hopkinsville.
The Foundation partnered with UK Cooperative Extension Service, Farmers Market of Murray-Calloway County, Inc., the Murray-Calloway County Fair Board, Inc., Calloway County Agriculture Development Council, and Calloway County Agriculture Advisory Council to increase vendor and consumer participation in the Farmers Market of Murray-Calloway County.
This included obtaining funds to construct a permanent facility at the Murray-Calloway County Fairgrounds, providing training to agriculture producers on good agricultural practices, recruiting local producers to consistently sell their products at the Market, and increasing advertising of the Market.
Each year the JPF works with local organizations to bring the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission's (ORSANCO) traveling freshwater aquarium to the BBQ on the River Festival in Paducah.
The Life Below the Waterline exhibit is designed to demonstrate the diversity of life sustained by the Ohio River and the improvements that have been made in water quality.
JPF uses this exhibit as an opportunity to educate the public about the importance of our water resources, and the tremendous strides we have made in protecting and restoring water quality in the region.
The Jackson Purchase Foundation has partnered with Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Kentucky Division of Water, Hickman County Fiscal Court, Kentucky State Nature Preservers Commission, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and University of Louisville Stream Institute on this restoration project.
This ongoing project is utilizing EPA Section 319(h) funds, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Transportation Enhancement funds, and Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources In-Lieu Fee Trust funds to restore approximately 18,000 linear feet of previously channelized sections of Obion Creek and Little Joe Creek. This project will ultimately result in the reestablishment of the ecological channel, floodplain and wetland functions of both Little Joe Creek and Obion Creek. The project will also alleviate issues associated with flooding of KY-307, an important traffic corridor for the area.
The Foundation has served as the fiscal agent and sponsor for Four Rivers Watershed Watch since 1999. Four Rivers Watershed Watch is a group a volunteers that conduct stream quality surveys on streams, rivers, and lakes in the Four Rivers Region of Kentucky. We encourage all individuals to know about their waterways, since the condition of our streams and rivers is an indicator of the health of our water and communities.
Through our efforts, we provide citizens with the training necessary to scientifically explore and provide a snapshot of their own stream quality. The data collected by our volunteers is used to help develop plans to enhance the streams for fishing, swimming, wildlife habitat and drinking water supply.
With assistance from their diverse and productive partnerships, the Jackson Purchase Foundation brings together people and organizations, including private landowners, conservation groups, local, state and federal governments, nonprofits and the private sector, to implement projects that promote healthy communities, healthy environments and sustainable economic growth.
With their approach, Jackson Purchase Foundations hopes to empower local citizens and communities to make dreams become a reality, just like the brand new kayak and canoe launch site just off Sheehan Bridge Road. Area enthusiast John Tillson said, “I’m glad the event was such a success. The organizers (JPF) put a lot of work into it and it really paid off.”
McCracken County Judge Executive Van Newberry agreed. “I enjoyed the kayak trip down the Clark’s River very much. I recommend to everybody. I was impressed with how clean the river banks appeared. I will certainly do this trip again before winter.”