The Catawba River will be a little safer, thanks to the work of a Rock Hill teenager.
For his Eagle Scout project, Harris Vaughan, 16, decided to erect mile marker signs along the Catawba River so that if someone gets in trouble on the water, they can better relay their location to emergency responders.
There are now 16 signs every half-mile from the dam to River Park, including signs that alert boaters and swimmers to takeout points.
Carrying out the project required the help of York County Emergency Management and speaking with property owners. Emergency Management director Chuck Haynes said the plan is for Lancaster County Emergency Management to pick up the project and continue it down the river through Lancaster County.
“This has been talked about for a while, but Harris brought the energy to actually pull it together,” he said. “It’s not just a sign; it is actually in our dispatch center’s system, so when folks call 911 they’re not just saying there’s a sign. That tells us information on how to access people at that point appropriately, which resources to send and that sort of thing.”
Vaughan, a student at Rock Hill High School and part of Troop 109 at Woodland United Methodist Church, said he saw the need for the mile markers during his troop’s frequent trips to the river.
“I was going down the river one day and we about missed the River Park access,” he said. “I want to feel that people are safer out there on the river, because it’s a dangerous place.”
The signs span about six miles of the river. Haynes said after River Park, the signs will be placed every mile.
“Conversations have been going on for years about getting some type of location identification markers on the river,” he said. “There was a lot of reaching out and signing paperwork with property owners. It sounds simple up front, but it takes energy and that’s what Harris brought to the project.”
Vaughan’s mother, Marco, called her son’s effort “monumental.”
“Harris is very motivated, but even with the motivation, this has been a lot of time and effort for him in conjunction with just being a 16-year-old and trying to keep up with 16-year-old life,” she said. “We had no idea it was going to turn into such a big thing.”
Even amid their installation last weekend, the signs were already getting use.
“Last Saturday when we were installing them, swift water rescue team had to go make a rescue,” he said. “They were already using one of our signs to help them.”