New trail part of improvements to Chattahoochee Bend state park

Friends of Chattahoochee Bend State Park volunteers Pam Giles and James Stephens stand at the footbridge entrance to the park’s new Flat Rock Trail, built Sept. 28. The Flat Rock Trail Caterpillar bridge was built by a volunteer team from Caterpillar Inc. in LaGrange on Sept. 27, to lay the groundwork for Saturday’s trail-blazing at the park. Photo/Special.

Volunteers turned out Sept. 28 to lend a hand helping install a new trail at Chattahoochee Bend State Park in northwest Coweta County that borders the Chattahoochee River. The trail is but one of the ongoing improvements at the nearly 3,000-acre state park.

“In all, four tons of flagstone, 18 tons of slate gravel and 36 tons of sod were used in the projects,” said Chattahoochee Bend park manager Tim Banks. The sod was donated by Ga. Dept. of Natural Resources board member and North Georgia Turf owner Aaron McWhorter, of Whitesburg. The gravel, stone and footbridge timber were provided by Chattahoochee Bend’s Friends chapter, Banks said.

“We’ve been busy,” said Friends of Chattahoochee Bend State Park President Steve St. Laurent. “And as usual, we were able to do it because we have such great support for our state park. The partnership with Coweta County, the donations of funds and materials, and the dedicated volunteers who come out to the park keep allowing us to bring Chattahoochee Bend up to a higher and higher level for visitors.”

The Sept. 28 event was sponsored by the Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites and was part of the “Your State Parks Day” in honor of National Public Lands Day, providing free admission and parking at state parks and historic sites and encouraging volunteer projects.

Volunteers with Friends of Chattahoochee Bend State Park began blazing new hiking trails to celebrate the occasion with a looped path that links up the very first section of trail built during the park’s groundbreaking in 2009.

The new hiking trail travels through Chattahoochee Bend’s scenic flatrock area and will soon link up with the park’s visitor’s center and the existing nine miles of hiking trails built by the “Friends” group over the past four years. Saturday’s trail construction followed a week of volunteer projects at the northwest Coweta County state park.

It was the first time in a year and a half that new trails have been built at the park, said organization member Dean Jackson.

“Volunteers gathered at the park’s visitor’s center for a 9:30 a.m. start. Girl Scout Troop 10322, with about 20 scouts and leaders from Madras Middle School and Northgate High School, joined veteran park volunteers to clear, grade and blaze the one-mile trail,” Jackson said.

The new Flat Rock Trail is accessed at the park’s Trail Head 1 and travels over the park's highest elevation, across the scenic flatrock area and through several boulder fields. In the coming months, Friends volunteers will build an adjoining 1.4-mile Boulder Valley Trail which will connect to the Flat Rock Trail in three places to create a “choose-your-own adventure” trail system. East-west loop trails will also be built from Trail Head 1 to the park's visitor’s center, which will link the new Flat Rock Trail to the existing nine miles of hiking trails built by the Friends group over the past four years, Jackson said.

“The flatrock area is very pretty place to hike and will be a great amenity for visitors,” said Banks. “It’s actually significant from an ecological point of view, too. The upper end is an example of Southern Flatrock, which is a level 2 imperiled ecosystem, and the lower end of the loop contains examples of Montane longleaf pine, which is globally imperiled level 1 ecosystem. It is a great asset for educating visitors about these natural systems.”

Four years ago, on Sept. 29, 2009, the Friend’s chapter hosted a ceremony at the Flat Rock site to kick off Chattahoochee Bend’s development as the first new state park built in Georgia in over a generation. For the “groundbreaking” event, Friends volunteers led state and local dignitaries in installing pine curbing for a 100-foot section of hiking trail connecting one large granite flatrock area to another.