By Amy Wenk
With Morgan Falls Overlook Park soon to open, the city has increased its ability to patrol the Chattahoochee River.
At the beginning of July, the Sandy Springs Police and Fire Rescue departments teamed up to form a river rescue squad that can scour the waters to save people like stranded kayakers or, if necessary, search the river for bodies or weapons.
“You are not limited by the shoreline anymore,” said Sandy Springs police Lt. Steve Rose, who wore a bright orange life vest on a test run of the city’s new Rescue One boat.
A few months back, the city paid about $23,000 for the boat, which features a rescue platform that sits a few inches into the water and makes it easy to rescue people from the river.
The city is storing the boat in a new boathouse at Morgan Falls Overlook Park.
“It just gives us an additional capability,” Rose said.
The river rescue team consists of 11 police officers and 24 firefighters. Police Lt. Bart Humble is the lead for the police, and Assistant Chief Mark Duke for the firefighters.
Rescue One can travel 34 mph and can hold eight people.
The boat has no propeller but uses a jet engine that permits the boat to operate in shallow water.
“The problem with this lake is there are a lot of sand bars,” Humble said. “A lot of training is just going to be learning the river, where the sand bars are.”
Another feature of the boat is its ability to connect to other rescue boats. It has metal rails on its sides that allow public safety personnel to create impromptu bridges or floating platforms.
“We’re already talking to other agencies,” Humble said, including the National Park Service and the city of Johns Creek.
The boat also is useful for catching river-loving criminals. The river rescue team will patrol the Chattahoochee River from Morgan Falls Dam to Ga. 400.
Right now, the new team is trying to catch trespassing “cliff divers,” Rose said.
“They are encroaching on homeowners,” Rose said.
Humble said kids will park in Cobb County and swim across the river to climb the approximately three-story bluffs on the outskirts of neighborhoods like Huntcliff and Wildercliff in Sandy Springs.
“They will go up there and dump trash,” Humble said. “Once, they jumped in a lady’s swimming pool.”
The first week in July, police took the rescue boat out three times to catch the trespassing cliff divers. Humble said seven cases were made the first day.
“You’ll get busted if you go up on the cliff,” Rose said.