Northeastern Georgia is now one step closer to having a state scenic byway. The last of three public meetings was held July 28 at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame to solicit community input and questions about the byway proposal.
No zoning changes are being proposed with the scenic byway, and no new roads are being built in relation to the byway, said Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mandy Power.
This proposal has already gained the Georgia Department of Transportation’s approval. In October, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution to support the byway idea, as did the boards in Gilmer and Pickens counties, which also host some of the roads included in the proposed designation. Dawson County property owners have also been notified.
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A Georgia Scenic byway is any designated highway, street, road or route which significantly features certain intrinsic qualities that should be protected or enhanced, according to a presentation about the byway.
The majority of the suggested route follows existing roads in Dawson County, from Dawsonville northwest and progressing into southern Gilmer County and eastern Pickens County.
The proposed byway starts in downtown Dawsonville and goes by sights like the old courthouse, Pool Room and Georgia Racing Hall of Fame before winding past some of the county’s historic churches, Len Foote Hike Inn, Fausett Farms and Burt's Pumpkin Farm.
Presentation materials said the benefits of having a byway designation would include the opportunity to show off Dawson County’s culture, history, nature and scenery. The route would also promote connectivity to Gilmer and Pickens County, thus helping promote a shared heritage.
Dawson also has the benefit of having the scenic byway named after one of the county’s landmarks, Power said.
The chamber is involved in the initiative because of the potential to enhance the area’s visibility with tourists, who could then spend money locally, Power said.
Amicalola Falls is one of Georgia’s most-visited state parks.
The only byway-specific restriction along the proposed route is a prohibition against putting up new billboards (existing, temporary agritourism signs would be fine).
Signs with the state flower, the Cherokee Rose, will be posted every couple of miles to mark the scenic byway. The Amicalola Falls Scenic Byway route would be listed on tourism websites and on the state and national scenic byway websites.
As part of the next steps, the chamber and its partners will have to get state legislator support, form a local advisory committee to review the suggested corridor management plan and map before the byway application can be submitted.
When the idea first came up at the BOC’s Oct. 7 work session, Chairman Billy Thurmond mentioned that the route in question already essentially functions as a scenic byway and that they’d “just be naming it.”
“Hopefully that in itself will draw people,” Thurmond said. “A lot of people look at that and say, ‘Oh, that’s a scenic thing. Let’s go check that out.’”