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Business proposal could have visitors up in the trees
Company wants to build only second canopy tour in the state
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Bonsai-Designs, which created the course shown here, also will design a canopy tour proposed near Lula.

Hall County may soon be home to one of only two canopy tours in the state, complete with a mile of zip line, sky bridges and teepee camping.

A canopy tour takes people gliding through the treetops of the forest on a series of zip lines connected by platforms built on trees.
North Georgia Canopy Tours hopes to build the second canopy tour in the state on 135 acres near Lula.

The company received approval from the Hall County Planning Commission on Sept. 21 and will go before the Hall County Board of Commissioners on Thursday for the final decision on the project.

Kirk and Leah Watkins of North Georgia Canopy Tours said they got the idea to build zip lines on their Lula property after they did a canopy tour in Costa Rica, where the activity is more popular than in the U.S.

“It will bring something new and exciting; it will bring adventure,” Leah Watkins said. “It’s an educational experience along with an outdoor adventure.”

The canopy tour will focus on both the adventure aspect of zipping through the forest as well as appreciating the surroundings.

“We plan to educate people not only on the trees and flowers and the wildlife that’s around but also the history of the area,” Leah Watkins said.

The canopy tour will be designed by Bonsai-Design, a company that has built courses across the country. The course will closely mirror the Hocking Hills tour in Ohio, designed by Bonsai-Designs.

Stacey Dickson, president of the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she anticipates the tour will become a major attraction.

“We’re really excited,” Dickson said. “It’s going to be a great draw.”

Dickson said having an outdoor activity in North Hall will not bring tourists to an area with few other attractions. “It will maintain the beauty of the area and it’s minimally invasive,” Dickson said. “It’s the best of both worlds.”

There are currently 25 canopy tours in the U.S., Kirk Watson said.

Carolyn Allison, a spokeswoman for Nantahala Gorge Canopy Tours in North Carolina, said she has seen business skyrocket since opening this summer.

“It has knocked our socks off,” Allison said. “We were just overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and the interest.”

Allison said her company has been in the white water rafting business for more than 20 years and has seen interest in rafting wane as canopy tours have become the trend in outdoor adventures over the last five years.

“There are quite a number of them here in North Carolina,” Allison said. “I’m surprised there aren’t more in Georgia.”

Kirk Watson said they plan to open North Georgia Canopy Tours in April pending approval Thursday by the Hall County Board of Commissioners.

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