“There goes history,” some of the folks said to me as we passed on our strolls down the Phenix City Riverwalk Sunday. I replied, “It’s change,” and, frankly, I appreciate the creative thinking that gives new life to the old Chattahoochee River in downtown Columbus and Phenix City. Not only will kyaking and rafting bring a lot of tourist money to the area, it will enhance the Riverwalking experience. Still, I was encouraged to know that there are people who understand the importance of history.
In this particular instance, though, you could say history is also being preserved by returning the river to the state in which it existed probably for thousands of years before the Industrial Revolution came along and society decided to harness nature to manufacture things.
Historians tell us that Native Americans lived where Columbus and Phenix City are now located for about ten thousand years before European settlers came along and took their land away from them. During that time there were rapids here because Columbus and Phenix City are located on the Fall Line, the drop in elevation that goes back to when to our area was an ocean beach.
This brings up an interesting issue for historic preservation purists who maintain that no old structures should be destroyed. While being a history buff who buys any new history written by David McCullough or Doris Kearns Goodwin no matter the subject, I’m not one of those purists. I think we should maintain examples of artifacts, but I have no problem in putting some areas to new uses. It seems to me that removing enough of the Eagle-Phenix and City Mill dams to return the whitewater to the river, but leaving remnants of them that symbolize the historical structures is an acceptable solution. Just think, we get something new, retain part of something fairly old, and restore something that is one heck of a lot older.