CLARKE COUNTY, Ala. (WKRG) — Any time there’s an emergency on the Tombigbee River between Coffeeville and Jackson first responders use this boat launch, but now that can’t happen.

“It’s just no longer accessible. It’s silted in and really needs to be corrected,” said Frank Henley, fire chief of the Salitpa Volunteer Fire Department.

He says boats can’t get to and from the launch, making any sort of rescue on the river impossible from Old Lock One Park. Now, they have found access somewhere else in Clarke County.

“It could be critical minutes, a lot of critical minutes lost,” he explained.

Henley says the launch hasn’t been taken care of in years and the water needs to be dredged. It’s supposed to be maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The county’s EMA & E-911 director agrees there’s a problem.

“Most of the vessels are not going to be able to make that trip just because it’s so shallow in that area. There’s so much sand and silt that has washed in,” said Roy Waite.

It’s not just an issue for first responders, it’s a public safety issue for anyone who ventures too close to the water. The chain link fence at the park along the water has rusted and is falling down. In some spots, it’s gone completely and there’s a 30ft drop off the edge. Gena Bradley grew up nearby and has started a petition for help. So far she’s received over 1500 signatures.

“I didn’t expect this much of a response. I’m very impressed,” she said.

That petition is getting attention. We’ve reached out to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to find out if an improvement project is planned for the area.