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‘Outdoor playground’

Official pushes preservation of local forestland

POSTED: August 25, 2010 4:00 a.m.
Frank Reddy Dawson Community News/

Dawson County Commissioner Gary Pichon talks with Liz Cole during an Aug. 18 discussion on the future of Dawson Forest.

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A Dawson County official posed the question 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 Aug. 18 about the possibility of expanding the recreational use 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?”


Many of those in attendance belonged to equestrian clubs around the state.


Members of the clubs often use Dawson Forest for the horse trails that snake through its 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.”


“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,” he said.


“That’s my concern.”


While the future of the tract is uncertain, there has been talk about creating a reservoir on the property.


The 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.”


After the meeting, Pichon said he hoped “to raise awareness, and maybe someone can help get this started.”


He said that perhaps a parks authority could be created at the state level to get the process going financially.


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