The Trust for Public Land celebrated the conservation of key access points to the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River at a press conference Friday in Cleveland.
The trust purchased two small pieces of property from Wildwood Outfitters in Cleveland along with about 37 acres downstream at Mossy Creek in Hall County. The trust then donated a portion of the property to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to ensure public access for recreation on the river.
"When we do parcels like this, one of the descriptions is ‘in perpetuity.' We're doing this forever. It guarantees access to this river forever," said David Martin, chairman of the Trust for Public Land Georgia Advisory Council. "To be out here, be part of the land and have this kind of access to the river is incredible."
A longtime paddler, Martin said that stretch of the river is considered by the canoeing world to be one of the best beginning and intermediate training areas around.
The properties in White, Habersham and Hall counties add to the roster of protected areas along the headwaters of the Chattahoochee, which includes Nacoochee Valley, Buck Shoals State Park and the new Don Carter State Park in Hall County.
"These pieces are critical to maintaining the paddling trail along the upper Chattahoochee River," said Debra Edelson, project manager for the Trust for Public Land.
The eventual hope is to create a "blueway" along the Chattahoochee River - that is, continuous access and
facilities for activities like canoeing and kayaking from the headwaters of the river all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.
"As you can see, it's piece by piece," Edelson said. "We're making sure we don't lose any pieces."
Since the 1990s, the Trust for Public Land and the DNR have conserved 600 acres of green space along the upper Chattahoochee River in White County and 135 acres in Hall County.
Mully Ash, mayor of Helen, said conserving the river for future generations also ensures ecotourism dollars will continue to flow into the area.
"People are coming into this area and visiting Smithgall Woods, Unicoi (State Park) and coming to town because it's affordable," Ash said. "It helps all of North Georgia."