North Georgians are about to get some company, but it comes as no surprise. This is the time of year when our part of the world is the place to be.
Fall tourism season is well underway, first luring visitors from Atlanta and elsewhere with a slew of festivals and events filling the October calendar. Now as the leaves begin to change and the dazzling autumn colors beckon, the roads into the mountains will be filled with tourists looking to take in nature’s beauty, along with a few boiled peanuts and a cup of cider.
This year’s summer drought and lingering warm weather may slow the changing colors of the leaves, but that likely won’t deter most visitors from checking out all there is to do and see.
Last year, tourism in Georgia brought in some $60.8 billion, Gov. Nathan Deal told attendees at the annual Tourism Conference on Thursday at Jekyll Island. That helped fuel some 450,000 jobs tied to the industry statewide.
The windfall has an impact on both private and public budgets. Industries tied to tourism have been on the rebound since the Great Recession of the last decade, and are again flush with visitors and their dollars. That in turn puts more tax money into local and state coffers to fund roads, infrastructure and other needs to keep that traffic flowing.
Georgia is blessed with unique attractions and varied natural beauty that offers a bit of everything. If you prefer the seaside, the state’s coastline offers beaches, pristine islands, historic venues and the lure of Savannah’s moss-covered charm. Atlanta has big-city culture, museums, sports, theater and nightlife.
Our end of the state features islands and highlights, from Lake Lanier to the Georgia mountains. Visitors can get lost in a cornfield or pick out fruit at Jaemor Farms, roam the Bavarian-themed avenues of Helen, pan for gold in Dahlonega or hike up Brasstown Bald. Myriad forests, trails, camping areas and wilderness venues are a short drive from city traffic and offer up-close views of nature’s glory.
And even after the fall season fades and the leaves fall, Christmas holiday season attractions will keep visitors coming, whether savoring the holiday decorations or shops in town squares or viewing the dazzling light displays at Lanier Islands’ Magical Nights of Lights.
To maintain these vital resources, it’s important for North Georgia communities to strike the proper balance between development and preservation to ensure future generations will make the same trek. It means carefully managing the natural wilderness reserves without letting greed overcome common sense.
And it means the state and Army of Corps of Engineers must continue their efforts to keep Lake Lanier’s water levels steady amid challenges from the “water wars” and droughts for its 8 million visitors each year.
As the highway hordes head our way, let’s all make sure we’re welcoming and accommodating to ensure our guests have a pleasant experience while taking in our special slice of heaven. We want them to stay awhile, spend a lot and come back often.
Share your thoughts on this or any other topic in a letter to the editor; you can use this form or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Times editorial board includes General Manager Norman Baggs, Editor Keith Albertson and Managing Editor Shannon Casas, plus community members Susan DeCrescenzo, Cathy Drerup and Brent Hoffman.