Vogel State Park On My Mind

Sharing the same name I knew that fate would one day find us within driving distance of Vogel State Park and when that day arrived, the park did not disappoint.

Vogel State Park On My Mind © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Vogel State Park On My Mind © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As we entered Vogel State Park from US Highways 19/129, 22-acre Lake Trahlyta opened to the right, a fitting memorial to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) that both dammed the lake and built the park. Georgia’s poet laureate, Bryon Herbert Reece, was born in a cabin on the land where Lake Trahlyta now sits.

In 1929, Augustus Vogel and Fred Vogel Jr. donated nearly 259 acres to the state, much of it still encompassed within the 233-acres within Vogel State Park. At the start of the 20th century the Vogels set up a lumber mill on the site of present-day state park to harvest oak trees, a major source of tannic acid for their leather company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Operated by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Vogel State Park is in the heart of north Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains, 11 miles south of Blairsville.

One of Georgia’s oldest and most beloved state parks, Vogel is located at the base of Blood Mountain in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Driving from the south, visitors pass through Neel Gap, a beautiful mountain pass near Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia.

Vogel State Park On My Mind © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Vogel State Park On My Mind © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vogel State Park has been an escape of families for generations. Returning soldiers following World War II found Vogel an ideal vacation spot to renew family relationships. Grandchildren of these early visitors have continued the tradition. Vogel offers a slower pace in these fast-paced times.

At 2,500 feet elevation Vogel State Park maintains a cool evening temperature even in the dog days of summer, making this a great stop for camping. The park provide a range of overnight accommodations including 56 campsites with electric service suitable for RVs up to 40 feet in length, 22 tent/pop-up campsites, 14 tent-only walk-in campsites, and 34 cottages. All accommodations are available for reservation.

A lake for swimming and boating, and miles of hiking trails adjacent to the famous Appalachian Trail offer something for everyone. The park’s 22-acre lake is open to non-motorized boats, and during summer, visitors can cool off at the mountain-view beach.

The park offers 17 miles of hiking trails from easy to strenuous. Hikers can choose from a variety of trails, including the popular 4-mile Bear Hair Gap loop, an easy lake loop that leads to Trahlyta Falls, and the challenging 13-mile Coosa Backcountry Trail.

Vogel State Park On My Mind © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Vogel State Park On My Mind © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An annual wildflower pilgrimage is a favorite time for those who want to see a variety of spring wildflowers. This mid-April event provides an ideal opportunity for wildflower lovers to enjoy a casual walk with a naturalist and search for the hidden beauty of the forest floor.

Constructed by the CCC during the depression years of the 1930s, Vogel’s park rustic architecture harkens back to a simpler time. The CCC history runs deep through the park. A museum recognizing the efforts of the greatest generation of natural resource workers.

The park hosts an annual CCC reunion of men who actually worked as President Roosevelt’s Tree Army soldiers. They have tales to tell of planting trees, fighting fire, building dams and parks, and other experiences that some say were the best days of their lives. This program is held in May. Everyone is welcome to attend this fascinating event.

Wildlife viewing at Vogel is a favorite pastime. There are deer, black bear, birds, and smaller creatures, but fishing is one of the more popular activities. The park hosts an annual Kids Fishing Rodeo the second Saturday of June. Youngsters 12 and under have the opportunity to fish for rainbow trout in Wolf Creek. Wildlife Resources Fisheries stock Wolf Creek with hundreds of trout which pretty much guarantees a catch for each child present.

Every Saturday evening during the summer, musicians and groups play on the theater over the lake. What better way to experience a summer evening than with a cool breeze on your face and beautiful music.

Vogel State Park On My Mind © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Vogel State Park On My Mind © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Appalachian Mountains wouldn’t have the character they do, were it not for the music that has emanated from the hollows. September 12 (2015) is when Vogel hosts its 12th annual Mountain Music Festival. This all-day event has bluegrass, country, gospel, and mountain musicians playing on the lake shore. Crafters will also display their handmade wares in much the same way they would have done in an earlier time. Concessions will be provided by Vogel volunteers.

Vogel is fun year round but particularly popular during the fall when the Blue Ridge Mountains transform into a rolling blanket of red, yellow, and gold leaves.

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

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Georgia DNR Launches Interactive Recreation Map

From the majestic ridges and valleys of northwest Georgia to the marshes of Glynn County on the coast, the state of Georgia is fortunate to have a diversity of natural and cultural resources for residents and visitors to enjoy.

GaOutdoorMap_0The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is charged with the conservation and protection of these resources for current and future generations. Their web site (SEE link below) provides visitors with information on how DNR manages the state’s natural and cultural resources and how the public can enjoy the great outdoors and the state’s rich history.

The DNR unveiled an interactive map that identifies DNR-managed lands and outdoor recreation opportunities.

The Georgia Outdoor Map (SEE link below) includes state parks, wildlife management areas, public fishing areas, boat ramps, and historic sites. Users are able to search by category to find locations where they can camp, hunt, hike, fish or explore history.

“We are proud to offer this new resource to Georgia’s citizens and visitors,” said Governor Nathan Deal.

“We are blessed here in Georgia with a state that is rich in both natural and cultural resources. I want to encourage Georgians to use this interactive tool to find new places to explore.”

Ossabaw Island
Ossabaw Island

The “Georgia Outdoor Map” can be visited using any device with a web browser including desktops, phones, and tablets.

By checking criteria fields, users can find recreational opportunities, directions, handicap accessibility, telephone numbers, and website links for more details.

The tool also offers a “near me” function to help users determine which recreational opportunities are closest to them.

“With this web-based tool, users can easily see what types of outdoor recreation are available in all parts of the state,” said DNR Commissioner Mark Williams.

“The map includes all DNR properties open for public use, from the smallest historic site to the largest wildlife management area. It’s a quick way to find boat ramps, campgrounds, archery ranges and other places for enjoying the great outdoors.”

Details

Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Georgia Centennial Farm, Terrell County
Georgia Centennial Farm, Terrell County

Address: 2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, SE Suite 1252, Atlanta, GA 30334

Website: www.gadnr.org

Georgia Outdoor Map website: www.georgiaoutdoormap.com

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

Read More

Warm Deals for Snowbirds at Georgia State Parks

The seasons have changed and winter has arrived, which means that Georgia State Parks has one for the birds — the sun-seeking snowbirds, that is.

SnowbirdSpecialIt’s time for the annual migration when residents from points north seek warm southern sunshine.

Georgia State Parks is offering some cool deals to RVers to nest for a while in the Peach State by offering a 50 percent discount off the regular campsite rates of $25 to $32 per night with a minimum of a 30-day stay from now until February 28, 2014.

To take advantage of this fine-as-a-feather offer when making reservations, use promotional code SnowBird50% (SEE Website below for details).

This snowbird of happiness half-off special discount is valid for campsites at six participating state parks peppered across South Georgia, including Florence Marina, Kolomoki Mounds, Magnolia Springs, Reed Bingham, Seminole, and Stephen C. Foster.

The parks offer unparalleled natural surroundings, quietness and serenity, historical perspectives, and something uniquely different about each one for discerning cold-weather escapees.

Each offers Snowbird rates ranging from $12.50 to $16 per night.

At Georgia State Parks, it’s all about the outdoors for singles, couples, or families. For an extended stay with great rates, everyone can easily escape the cold and bask under the Georgia sun with a wide range of activities.

Florence Marina State Park

Florence Marina State Park Campsite
Florence Marina State Park Campsite

On the western edge of Georgia lies Florence Marina State Park in Omaha. While its primary design is for water lovers and water sports, it offers a natural deepwater marina, boat slips and boat ramp, and a fun fishing pier where the fishing is as fabulous as the birding.

Kolomoki Mounds State Park

Farther south is Kolomoki Mounds State Park, a historically significant park near Blakely that is the oldest and largest Woodland Indian site in the Southeast.

Magnolia Springs State Park

Wedged between Interstates 16 and 20 is Magnolia Springs State Park in Millen. While it is primarily known for its wildlife and crystalline springs that gush an astounding 7 million gallons per day, the dramatically beautiful site is historically significant in that it was once a Civil War stockade.

Adel’s Reed Bingham State Park

Near the major north-south corridor of Interstate 75 is Adel’s Reed Bingham State Park, another veritable zoo of rare and endangered wildlife such as gopher tortoises and indigo snakes. The park is also home to one of Georgia’s most bizarre natural spectacles when thousands of buzzards congregate here to roost for the winter and is truly a sight to behold.

Seminole State Park

On the 37,500-acre Lake Seminole in the far southwest corner of Georgia close to Donalsonville is Seminole State Park, which has the distinction of having one of the largest longleaf pine forests in a Georgia state park. The park is the place for myriad opportunities for boating, fishing, birding, and wildlife watching.

Stephen Foster State Park

Stephen Foster State Park Campsite
Stephen Foster State Park Campsite

For a taste of the enigmatic, darkly beautiful Okefenokee Swamp, an array of wildlife not found elsewhere, and melodic folk music, Stephen Foster State Park near Fargo is a remote and rare jewel. Here the nights are dark and quiet so that stargazing is an unreal experience.

Details

Georgia State Park System

Waterfalls and lakes, salt marsh and mountains are just some of the environments of the 48 state parks.

Georgia State Park Golf Courses offer eight golf courses to choose from. Most state parks offer fishing, boating, hiking, camping, geocaching, birding, and more.

Accommodations include campsites, cabins, lodges, even yurts, and vary by park.

Among the 15 Georgia State Historic Sites are presidential homes, ancient Indian mounds, battlefields, plantations, and even a gold museum.

Georgia’s public libraries have ParkPasses and Historic Site Passes that can be checked out like a book.

Annual ParkPasses are $50 (or just $25 for seniors 62 and older). Even better, membership to Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites includes a free ParkPass and more discounts.  Campers can pick up loyalty cards that earn them every 10th night for free.

Georgia State Parks: gastateparks.org

Snowbird Special: gastateparks.org/snowbird

Georgia State Parks Things To Know: gastateparks.org/thingstoknow

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

Read More

Georgia: Don Carter State Park Construction Update

Work on Don Carter State Parkoff northeastern Lake Lanier is on track.

Workers pave roads leading to campsites. (Credit: Tom Reed/The Times)

“We’re pleased that we’re moving forward and everything is on schedule,” said Kim Hatcher, public affairs coordinator for the Parks, Recreation, and Historic Sites division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“We’re still on track to complete the park in early 2013.”

Construction work is progressing well on key parts of Don Carter State Park. During a visit last week, dump trucks and bulldozers were rolling along dirt-packed and gravel roads fingering throughout the 1,040-acre park, reports The Gainesville Times.

Once complete, Hall County’s first state park will feature 48 campsites with water and electricity, eight two-bedroom cottages, a visitor center, playgrounds, two boat ramps, and a beach/bathhouse in a scenic cove off the Chattahoochee River.

“This is the second state park we’ve ever built from scratch,” said Toby Evans, Northern Region manager for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, noting that the first one was Chattahoochee Bendin Newnan.

Throughout the project, workers have tried to spare as many trees as possible, he said. “And there’s been a couple of places where we (were) just going to do some reforestation,” Evans said.

Don Carter State Park will feature campsites like this one for RVs. (Credit: Tom Reed/The Times)

“The trees that we could have saved probably weren’t worth saving, so we’re just going to plant new ones.”

Construction started in December 2011, but the park dates back to 2002, when its namesake, Gainesville real estate executive Don Carter, was stepping down from the DNR board after 29 years.

Then-DNR Commissioner Lonice Barrett announced the naming of the park at a going-away party for Carter at Lake Lanier Islands. Carter had identified the property, which sits off North Browning Bridge Road, to the attention of the state, which would eventually buy the land, writes The Gainesville Times.

Then, after nearly eight years of waiting for funding, a $14 million bond package would make the project a reality, with construction costs making up about $11.5 million of the total cost.

“It’s an economic stimulator and will put people to work,” Evans said, justifying the project taking place during hard economic times.

“But it was planned ahead of the downturn, and the recreational need is here.” Area and state dignitaries, including then-Gov. Sonny Perdue, gathered at the park site for a formal groundbreaking ceremony in August 2010.

“It will be a park that will benefit the working class of people,” Carter said at the time.

“There won’t be any golf courses or any big motels. It will be Mother Nature in her splendor.”

Evans said that Carter “comes out about every week” to check on the project. Once the DNR locks in a date for the park opening, “we will start advertising it and (people) can start making reservations,” he said. Evans said he’s pleased so far with the progress, and he especially appreciates the park’s many scenic vistas.

“It’s a beautiful park,” he said. A summer 2013 opening is expected.

A truck goes through the entrance gate under construction at Don Carter State Park. (Credit: Tom Reed/The Times)

Details

Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites

The Department of Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks & Historic Sites manages more than 60 properties that preserve the state’s environment and history.

From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Colonial Coast, the sites offer an exceptional variety of resources:

  • Mountains and canyons
  • Forests, fields, and marshes
  • Waterfalls, lakes, swamps, and rivers
  • Battlefields, historic homes, and Native American sites

Phone: (800) 864-7275

Website: gastateparks.org

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

Read More

Discover the Joys of Camping

For those of you who have wanted to try camping, but weren’t sure how to begin, Georgia State Parks can help.

Through the parks group First-Time Camper Program, you’ll get borrowed gear, a lesson in Camping 101, two nights’ accommodations, and more . . . all for $45.

Gear from REI
Test out great gear provided by REI (Recreation Equipment Incorporated)—an outdoor equipment and clothing company.

You won’t get to keep it, but you will get coupons for future purchases.

The package of borrowed gear includes:

  • 1 REI Kingdom tent (6-person)
  • 4 sleeping pads (self-inflating)
  • 1 camp stove with fuel
  • 4 roasting forks
  • 1 lantern

Please bring your own sleeping bag or blanket, and a pillow.

Participating Campgrounds

Camper map showing 6 participating Georgia state parks.

Choose from six Georgia State Parks. Campsites have water and electric hookups, picnic tables, grills, and campfire pits. Bathrooms and hot showers are within walking distance. All of the parks have geocaches.

Call the Park directly to make your reservations and be sure to identify yourself as a First-Time Camper.

The parks offering the First-Time Camper program include:

  • Fort Mountain State Park: Located between Chatsworth and Ellijay, Fort Mountain has a lake with a beach for swimming. You can boat or fish, hike, bike, or play mini-golf. There’s a tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the mysterious, ancient rock wall that gives the park its name. Phone: (706) 422-1932
  • Fort Yargo State Park: Located Atlanta and Athens, Fort Yargo features a 1792 log fort built by settlers for protection against Creek and Cherokee Indians. Today, visitors come to Fort Yargo for its wide variety of outdoor recreation and scenery. Mountain bikers and hikers can test their endurance on 18 miles of trails. A 260-acre lake offers a large swimming beach, fishing, and boat ramps. The park’s wooded disc golf course is exceptionally challenging. Phone: (770) 867-3489
  • James H. (Sloppy) Floyd State Park:  Located near Rome in northwestern Georgia, James H. (Sloppy) Floyd offers hiking, biking, fishing, and boating. Phone: (706) 857-0826
  • Victoria Bryant State Park:  Nestled in the rolling hills of Georgia’s upper Piedmont near Lavonia, Victoria Bryant is one of northern Georgia’s best kept secrets. A beautiful stream flows through the park, providing the perfect setting for an after-picnic stroll. The park offers a swimming pool, gentle hiking, two small ponds, and a golf course. Phone: (706) 245-6270
  • Reed Bingham State Park: Located six miles west of I-75 in South Georgia, Reed Bingham has a 375-acre lake that’s popular with boaters and skiers; fishing for bass, crappie, catfish, and bream is excellent. Paddlers can rent canoes and kayaks to explore this beautiful lake lined with fragrant water lilies and tupelo trees. Phone: (229) 896-3551
  • Skidaway Island State Park: Located near historic Savannah, Skidway Island borders Skidaway narrows, a part of Georgia’s intracoastal waterway. Trails wind through maritime forest and past salt marsh, leading to a boardwalk and observation tower. Children will especially enjoy seeing the towering, 20-foot Giant Ground Sloth replica and reptile room. Phone: (912) 598-2300

Costs

  • $45 for two nights in a campground, gear rental, expert advice and a welcome kit
  • $5 ParkPass for the duration of your stay
  • Many park activities are free, such as hiking, geocaching and fishing; some activities have a fee, such as mini-golf, boat rental, or swimming pools

To Qualify

  • Anyone who has never camped in a Georgia State Park may participate
  • Once you’ve stayed the night, you’ll get a coupon for your next camping adventure

Pets

  • Because gear is borrowed, pets are not allowed in the First-Time Camper Program
  • But if you love the experience and come back again, your dog can enjoy camping too

Questions?

  • Contact First-Time Camper Program coordinator, Cindy Reittinger, at (404) 657-0029

REI Expert Advice

  • Click here, to check out REI’s helpful pre-trip information about camping and a number of outdoor pursuits.
Gear supplied by REI
Gear supplied by REI

Details

Georgia State Parks First-Time Camper Program

How much: $45, plus $5 ParkPass

Includes: Two-night stay at modern campground, camping gear rental including a 6-person tent, assistance setting up your campsite, and a Camping 101 lesson

Information: georgiastateparks.org

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

Read More

Rx for Fitness: Where Fitness is a Walk in the Park

Everyone knows that exercise is one key to being healthy, but not everyone enjoys going to the gym. Georgia’s State Park system has teamed up with the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants (GAPA) to make healthy living a bit more fun.

Through the new “Rx for Fitness” Program, physician assistants can prescribe healthy hikes in the great outdoors, and patients can turn in their “prescriptions” for FREE state park passes.

“Rx for Fitness” is part of the State Park system’s new Tons of Fun Fitness Challenge which encourages citizens to use outdoor recreation as part of their regular exercise. Park visitors may find that exploring a canyon is more fun than a step machine, and that hiking along a waterfall burns more calories than a treadmill.

Georgia State Parks also offer less traditional exercise, like lake swimming, geocaching, and disc golf. Even some state historic sites offer walking trails in beautiful settings.

Members of GAPA will be able to help their patients in a new way, by identifying those who need more exercise and suggesting they go for a hike. By trading their “prescription” for a FREE park pass, patients will not need to pay the $5 parking fee on their first visit.

Those who decide that regular hikes can help them meet weight-loss goals can choose to buy an Annual ParkPass. The 2012 Annual Georgia ParkPass is currently available for $50.

“We are so excited to offer a new and unique way of showcasing the benefits of outdoor recreation,” said State Parks Director Becky Kelley. “When exercise is fun, people tend to stick with it for much longer. It becomes part of their daily lives, and they have a better sense of wellbeing. Another benefit of visiting state parks is being able to bring your friends and family along with you.”

“Rx for Fitness” launched February 2 at the GAPA winter meeting. It is funded by The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation.

“Rx for Fitness is a creative way to give more kids and families access to healthy outdoor activities,” said John Bare, vice president of the Blank Family Foundation. “Better fitness is a walk in the park.”

Details

Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites

Georgia’s 63 state parks and historic sites preserve the state’s environment and history. Through these sites, Department of Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks & Historic Sites provides important habitat for plants and animals, gives people a place to enjoy the outdoors, and protects historic places where future generations can learn about the past.

Phone: (800) 864-7275 (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.)

Website: georgiastateparks.org

Tons of Fun Fitness Challenge

Nature has always held the key to fitness, through exercise and nutrition. Georgia State Parks has added personalized technology to make it even easier. Once you’ve joined FREE, you can customize your entire fitness program by setting your own goals and level of support. You can start by signing up for news about upcoming events, healthy recipes, and local groups. If you’re ready to commit to more of a change, select the journal, which will allow you to keep a daily diary, log your weight, track your activity, and record your meals.

Website: tonsoffun.org

Rx for Fitness

Through the new “Rx for Fitness” Program, physician assistants can prescribe healthy hikes in the great outdoors, and patients can turn in their “prescriptions” for free park passes.

Website: tonsoffun.org/Rxercise

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

Read More

Changes Ahead for Georgia State Parks

Stung by deep budget cuts and its fifth round of layoffs, the state division in charge of Georgia’s parks, recreation, and historic sites has begun a top-to-bottom review so it can make the parks system rely as little as possible on state funding within three years, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The “Direction 2015” initiative is as much about offering more to park users as it is a shift in how the state parks system operates. If successful, it will likely put the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites Division on the leading edge as parks systems nationwide continue to reel from the recession and continued cuts.

The division includes 64 parks and historic sites, seven golf courses, and five lodges.

Begun quietly last year, the first change will be experienced by park users beginning in spring as individual parks expand programs, start to tackle a backlog of maintenance, and likely increase some user fees.

Managers at every site have already submitted business plans.

Specifics of what each site will do under “Direction 2015” are expected to be finalized by January and then phased into action. The goal is for the division to be 75 percent self-sustaining, relying on the state for only 25 percent of its operating expenses.

One of Georgia’s oldest and most beloved state parks, Vogel is located at the base of Blood Mountain in the Chattahoochee National Forest. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This comes after the parks division lost 46 percent of its state funding over the past five years. As a whole, Georgia’s budget is $2 billion less than what it was before the recession.

“The basic premise is to try and come up with a strategy we can communicate to anyone who will listen that (the division) is going to be more proactive and reach a level of sustainability by 2015,” said Paul Nelson, the division’s assistant director. In turn, Nelson said, the division hopes to keep intact its remaining state support.

Georgia presently provides $13 million of the division’s $56 million operating budget. The loss of dollars has cost the division in jobs, staff morale, activities for the public, and customer satisfaction. Between 2009 and this year, its total number of salaried and hourly employees decreased from 1,282 to 899 positions, a reduction of 30 percent.

Employees such as restaurant servers, front desk clerks, and housekeepers who used to be full-time have had their hours cut and lost benefits. The cuts also have caused a $125 million backlog in maintenance such as peeling paint, leaking roofs, and building foundation repairs.

Park users have noticed. Between 2009 and 2010, user satisfaction ratings declined from 85 percent to 70 percent, based on the deteriorating condition of the facilities.

Named after songwriter Stephen Foster, this remote park is a primary entrance to the legendary Okefenokee Swamp and is one of the most intriguing areas in Georgia. Spanish moss-laced trees reflect off the black swamp waters, while cypress knees rise upward from the glass-like surface. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“The future of the system is on the line,” said Andy Fleming, executive director of the Cartersville-based Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites. The advocacy group helps organize volunteers and paid for a consulting firm to help the division with the initiative, not least because members were alarmed at what they saw.

In the short term, park managers are likely to try to increase activities aimed at specific groups, such as retirees, families, and youth service organizations such as the Girl Scouts. Additional fees are being considered for some general facilities such as picnic areas. The increased revenue would then be reinvested into staff and maintenance.

Long-term investments are also planned. At the popular lodge and conference center at Unicoi State Park in North Georgia, for example, the state Department of Natural Resources has already budgeted $4.1 million toward a $7.9 million renovation.

Most states are experiencing serious budget issues, and state parks are among the most affected, said Philip K. McKnelly, executive director of the National Association of State Park Directors. Still, McKnelly said there has never been a national survey on the elasticity of park fees, so it will be hard to know when solutions such as fee increases become too much.

Details

Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites

Located near the northern edge of the mysterious Okefenokee Swamp, this park is home to many fascinating creatures and plants, including alligators and carnivorous pitcher plants. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors to George State Park and Historic Sites pay a $5 daily or $50 annual parking fee that helps fund campground renovations, group shelter construction, dock replacements, and more.

Annual ParkPasses are good for 12 months from the date of purchase. The daily ParkPass is valid at all state parks visited the same day. Overnight guests pay the daily ParkPass fee only once during their stay, regardless of duration. Annual ParkPasses are available for purchase on the state park website.

Website: gastateparks.org

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

Read More

Georgia: New State Park Opens

During the past two years most states have cut state park spending, prioritizing other services such as education and health care. In May, California Gov. Jerry Brown announced plans to save money by closing up to 70 state parks.

Georgia’s newest state park is located in a graceful bend of the Chattahoochee River. (Credit: gastateparks.org)

In Georgia, funding for state parks has been cut 46 percent since 2008, according to Todd Holbrook, deputy Department of Natural Resources (DNR) commissioner. Agency officials said 169 people have been eliminated from the parks payroll. Funding for DNR will fall from $131 million in fiscal 2008 to a projected $89.7 million this year, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently reported.

DNR has cut maintenance at parks and lakes, eliminated aquariums, and reduced swimming pool hours at state facilities. No state parks have closed, but facilities within a few parks, like a lodge or cottage facility, have closed and hours have been cut.

Given this economic climate, it’s a miracle that Chattahoochee Bend State Park ever opened. It’s Georgia’s first new state park since Tallulah Gorge in 1993.

According to Holbrook, the new park will cost about $284,000 a year to run and have four or five full-time staffers. With funding slashed since the recession started, state parks throughout Georgia and most other states are now relying heavily on volunteers to operate kiosks, clean bathrooms, and tidy up campsites.

At the recent (July 1) official opening of Chattahoochee Bend State Park, State Rep. Lynn Smith called it “a new model going forward.”

Chattahoochee Bend opened following funding by the State of Georgia, Coweta County, the federal government, and a private foundation. Also there was work by county crews, people hired by the state, and by the Friends of Chattahoochee Bend State Park—which was organized long before the park opened.

Chattahoochee Bend pull-through RV campsite. (Credit: gastateparks.org)

Andy Bush who represented his boss, U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, stated, “This is a true collaborative effort between the state and local governments.”

Glenn Flake, current Friends president, presented commemorative paddles to several people, including Trent Wickland, the park manager. “Our Friends group will never leave you up the creek without a paddle,” Flake pledged to Wickland.

The Friends group built six miles of trails and footbridges. A federal grant helped develop RV and tent camping areas at Chattahoochee Bend.

Becky Kelley, DNR’s director of parks, recreation and historic sites, said, “I think in this day and time, we are dependent on the local community and volunteers to help get us through. It is truly a vision of our future to be able to rely on this degree of support from the local community.”

Chattahoochee Bend back-in campsite. (Credit: gastateparks.org)

Kelley added there are “so many people” who played a part in bringing the park to opening day. She offered “a great shout-out” to them all and predicted “generations and generations” will enjoy the park.

Chattahoochee Bend State Park was built due to the timing and support of the local community. Coweta County spent more than $1.2 million to build roads and parking in Chattahoochee Bend, Kelley said.

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Chattahoochee Bend State Park

Georgia’s newest state park showcases a spectacular tract of wilderness in northwest Coweta County. Located in a graceful bend of the Chattahoochee River, the park is a haven for paddlers, campers, and anglers. At 2,910 acres, Chattahoochee Bend is one of Georgia’s largest state parks, protecting seven miles of river frontage.  A boat ramp provides easy access to the water, while more than six miles of wooded trails are open for hiking and nature photography. An observation platform provides views of the river and forest.
Although most of the park has been left in its natural state, campers have several options for overnight stays. RVers have their own camping section with spacious pull-through and back-in sites. Tent campers can choose from riverfront platform sites, walk-in sites, and traditional developed campsites. Bathhouses with hot showers are a short walk from most campsites.

Operating Hours: 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; gates lock at 10 p.m. (NO late access)
Admission: $5/vehicle

Size: 2,910 acres

Hiking: 6 miles of trails, observation platform

Camping: 25 RV/tent sites ($25-$28); 16 riverside platform sites ($20); 12 tent walk-in sites ($25); 10 tent/pop-up sites ($25); 4 camping shelters, screened Adirondack-style camping ($35 each or $110 for four); reservations available

Address: 425 Bobwhite Way, Newnan , GA 30263

Web Site: Chattahoochee Bend

Contact: (770) 254-7271

Worth Pondering…
Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

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Georgia: Lake Lanier gets second state park

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is preparing to build its first park at Lake Lanier despite recent budget cuts that have curtailed services at other parks, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

F.D. Roosevelt State Park is located near Callaway Gardens and the quaint town of Warm Springs. Photo courtesy Georgia DNR

The 1,040-acre Don Carter State Park is one of two facilities that soon will be added to the roster of 63 Georgia state parks and historic sites.

In addition to Don Carter, DNR will open the $7 million Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Coweta County next year. Hatcher said she can think of only two other state parks—Sprewell Bluff and Tallulah Gorge—that have opened in the last 15 years, though the agency have built new facilities at existing parks.

Don Carter State Park will serve the less-developed northeastern part of Lake Lanier, offering camping, swimming, and other outdoor activities.

“It will be a nice alternative to the busier, higher-density areas (of the lake),” said DNR spokeswoman Kim Hatcher. “This will be the quieter end.”

Lake Lanier is a popular recreation spot for metro Atlanta residents. Each year more than 7.5 million people visit the lake.

Black Rock Mountain State Park, named for its sheer cliffs of dark-colored biotite gneiss, encompasses some of the most outstanding country in Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Photo courtesy Georgia DNR

The Army Corps of Engineers oversees the lake and operates 46 recreational facilities.

DNR bought most of the property that will become Don Carter State Park about 15 years ago. Last year Gov. Sonny Perdue included $14 million to design and build the park in a $1.2 billion bond package approved by the General Assembly.

The package also included money to build schools, libraries, roads, and other facilities. Perdue billed it as an economic stimulus that would create 20,000 construction jobs.

DNR’s Hatcher said it will cost an estimated $500,000 to operate Don Carter State Park.

Hatcher said income from about 20 cottages should eventually help the park make a small profit. She said two similar lake-based parks with cottages—Richard B. Russell and Tugaloo—make profits of $60,000 and $23,000 a year, respectively.

The state will select a contractor for Don Carter State Park in November, and construction should begin early next year.

The park will feature camping, cottages with lake views, a boat dock, boat ramps, a swimming beach, hiking and horse trails and picnic areas.

The Army Corps of Engineers also operates seven campgrounds with 482 campsites at the recreation area. This includes 430 sites with water and electric hookups. Most sites are waterfront and all have a picnic table fire ring, grill and lantern pole.

One of Georgia’s oldest and most popular state parks, Vogel is located at the base of Blood Mountain in the Chattahoochee National Forest. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The corps has experienced a booming summer at all its recreation areas along Lake Lanier.

Visitation numbers show a spike for 2010.

From January through July, the corps reports 4,748,982 visitors, up about 8.5% from the 4,375,793 visitors January through July 2009.

Open since March or April some of the corps-run campgrounds are now closed for the season, with Old Federal and Bald Ridge set to close November 21.

Schedules vary for the day-use parks, although many are open year-round.

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind (Official Georgia State Song)

Melodies bring memories

That linger in my heart

Make me think of Georgia

Why did we ever part?

Some sweet day when blossoms fall

And all the world’s a song

I’ll go back to Georgia

‘Cause that’s where I belong.

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines.

Other arms reach out to me

Other eyes smile tenderly

Still in peaceful dreams I see

The road leads back to you.

Georgia, Georgia, no peace I find

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

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