A Dawson County official posed a question Wednesday to a crowd of more than 50 at the local library:
"What if we could turn this county into the outdoor playground of Atlanta?"
Commissioner Gary Pichon spoke about the possibility of expanding upon the recreational usage of Dawson Forest, a 10,000-acre tract owned by the city of Atlanta.
Pichon, who organized the meeting for the purpose of discussion, said it was important for the community to come up with a plan for conserving the forested property.
"Don't think that just because it's rough terrain that those rough places can't be made plain," Pichon said.
"There's a lot of interest in that 10,000 acres right now.
"Do you want Peachtree City in the middle of this county?" Pichon asked the group.
Many of those in attendance belonged to equestrian clubs around the state. Members of the clubs often use Dawson Forest for its horse trails that snake in and out of the dense woods.
Lenore Graham, with the Chattahoochee Trail Horse Association, said she would "promote keeping God's earth the way he wanted it and leaving everything as natural as it can be."
Graham said a further expansion of the current trail system could be advantageous for those interested in horseback riding, cycling, jogging and other activities.
Pichon said the chief idea of the meeting was to "talk about how we can turn this land into permanent public green space."
Added Pichon: "I don't want to see it fall into private hands and turn into something we have no control over, because you'll never assemble that kind of land again.
That's my concern."
While the future is uncertain for the tract, there has been talk from officials about creation of a reservoir on the property.
Etowah Water and Sewer Authority is looking at potentially buying the property to provide regional water solutions.
The local authority and a private company have plans to buy the land in Dawson Forest, damming a portion of Shoal Creek to build a 2,000-acre reservoir.
At the meeting, Pichon called the Dawson Forest tract a "crown jewel in the crown" of the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area, more than 15,000 acres of nearby state-owned land.
"With all of this land together, that's where it starts to get interesting," Pichon said. "When you start to string it all together, the possibilities are exciting...there's potential for a grand outdoor park," he said.