Visitors to the Chicopee Woods Conservation Area — home to the popular Elachee Nature Science Center — are now paying parking fees, with proceeds going toward security.
Starting last Thursday, fees at the environmental attraction off Atlanta Highway/Ga. 13 near the historic Chicopee Village are $5 for passenger vehicles and $10 for 15-passenger vans or buses. An annual parking pass costs $50.
Visitors pay fees as they pass by a newly built parking station at the front of the park.
Much research was done on the fees, “and they’re comparable to many, many parks in the area,” said Andrea Timpone, Elachee president and CEO.
“The majority of people have been very supportive of the idea,” she said. “They recognize the value of the additional security for the parking areas. There are some people who have taken offense to it. We’re hoping they’ll understand and cooperate.”
Officials say that no local, state or federal tax revenues are directed to park operations. Funding comes from donations, grants and fundraiser proceeds.
In addition to Elachee, the 2,674-acre park also features hiking and mountain bike trails.
There are four designated parking areas in the conservation area: the bike trails, the gravel lot at the hiking trailheads on Elachee Drive, the Elachee visitor center and the Chicopee Lake gated parking lot on Calvary Church Road.
“With this parking station, the Chicopee Woods Area Park Commission is working proactively to manage and protect this incredible community resource,” says R.K. Whitehead, park commission chairman, in a statement on Elachee’s website.
“The commission’s vision for a successful public-private partnership includes developing these unique educational and recreational opportunities. This project is an important step in the park’s strategic management plan.”
Timpone discussed the proposal in a April 2017 meeting with the Hall County Board of Commissioners, which voted to abandon county-maintained right of way for the parking station.
“It’s currently hard to control access in and out of the park,” said Commissioner Scott Gibbs at the time. “This will give (the park) greater control of comings and goings and knowing who’s there.”