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Forest Service seeks comments on trails

Effort is to improve trail quality of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest

POSTED: March 6, 2011 11:47 p.m.

As part of an overall effort to improve trail quality, the U.S. Forest Service will hold a public meeting Tuesday to seek comment on management of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.

The Clarkesville event is the fourth in a series of public forums being held across North Georgia.

Steve Bekkerus, public affairs officer for the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, said the goal is to gather a group representative of the diverse users of national forest trails.

“It’s really to meet with the public and ... determine what (the trails) should look like, what will meet the needs and desires for all different users, whether it’s motorized or hikers or bikers or equestrian, hearing all of their concerns.”

The Chattahoochee National Forest takes up about 730,000 square acres across North Georgia, stretching from Alabama to South Carolina. The Oconee National Forest is smaller with 116,000 square acres south of Athens. Together, they stretch over 26 counties and hold more than 800 miles of recreation trails.

The previous meetings in Dalton, Blue Ridge and Kennesaw were attended by 30 to 100 people. The public meetings are held in a discussion format, with attendees broken into groups to share their thoughts on the trails.

Some have shared a desire to make the motorized trails safer while others have concern about preserving the natural beauty, Bekkerus said. There also has been some debate over adding to or reducing the number of trails.

“We’re trying to balance and hear from everybody and hear these concerns and really talk to people on a first name basis and get some new information,” Bekkerus said.

Following the Clarkesville event, a final meeting will be held March 10 in Eatonton. The forest service plans to hold meetings once a month at locations across the state.



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