Seven hundred acres of state-owned land in Heard County may be developed as an “ATV adventure park,” and cabins will be coming to Coweta’s Chattahoochee Bend State Park.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is seeking federal grant money to develop the Bush Head Shoals State Park property, located on the Chattahoochee River north of Franklin, into a place primarily providing trails for four-wheelers and other all-terrain vehicles.
Walter Rabon, deputy commissioner, talked about the projects at Friday’s meeting of the Newnan Rotary Club.
The state has owned the 700-acre Bush Head Shoals property for several years, but there has been no development, so far.
The state parks division currently doesn’t have an ATV-centered park, but “it is an outdoor facet that is growing tremendously,” Rabon said. There are several private ATV parks in the state, but DNR wants to try it on public land.
“We’re excited about what that can be,” Rabon said.
The park would definitely be kept family-friendly, and there would be other amenities, too.
Dean Jackson of the Friends of Chattahoochee Bend State Park ask Rabon about boat ramps and campsites that would make the park part of the “blueway” envisioned along the Chattahoochee. Blueway amenities such as boat ramps and camping allow multi-day boat trips.
The Bush Head Shoals property is just off Highway 34 West between Newnan and Franklin. The shoals themselves are probably the best whitewater on the Chattahoochee between Atlanta and Columbus, Jackson said. There is a series of river islands in the Bush Head Shoals area, as well.
It’s a three-to-four hour trip by canoe or kayak from the ramp at Chattahoochee Bend to the shoals, and about another hour to the current take-out in Franklin, Jackson said.
The federal grant that the state is applying for is a recreational trails grant for motorized vehicles. No one in Georgia has applied for a grant from that program in many years, Rabon said.
There are already some conceptual plans drawn up, and he said there is space on the property for approximately 14 miles of trails.
Jackson said he is looking forward to having Bush Head Shoals be open for public use. The boat ramp and campgrounds would be a great asset, and he thinks the public would really take advantage of the ATV trails.
Rabon called Chattahoochee Bend State Park “one of the flagships, the up-and-coming parks in our system. Lots of things are going on. There’s a lot of energy around that park.”
The park currently has several camping options. The addition of cabins “will definitely increase visitation to that park,” he said.
There were no details on the cabins. They have always been in the long-range plan, but Jackson said he thinks Friday was the first public announcement that cabins were in the works.
As deputy director, Rabon oversees operations of five of the department’s six divisions: Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites, Wildlife Resources, Coastal Resources, Law Enforcement, and Historic Preservation. The sixth division, Environmental Protection, has its own director, appointed by the governor.
The department has about 1,700 employees statewide. Approximately 650 of those are part-time, Rabon said. There are 65 parks, and the department manages around 1 million acres of public land.
That land sees about 8 million visitors a year, creating an economic impact of $610 million on their communities.
Protecting and managing lands for wildlife and outdoor recreation is important for the benefit of future generations, Rabon said.
“A responsibility we take very seriously is motivating Georgians to get outdoors and enjoy and appreciate our natural resources,” he said.
“We are very passionate about getting kids out from in front of the TV and video games. We want them outside hunting and fishing and hiking,” he said. “We want the next generation to connect with the outdoors so that they will be good stewards of the natural resources we have been blessed with.”
Sarah Fay Campbell: firstname.lastname@example.org