The Conservation Fund has acquired 931 acres of property straddling Santa Claus Road, between Cave Spring and Cedartown. The land was previously managed by Hancock Timber Resources.
“There were four separate transactions, but we worked with one entity based out of Charlotte, N.C.,” said Andrew Schock, a real estate associate with The Conservation Fund in Georgia.
Larry Madden of Cave Spring, a leader with the Georgia Pinhoti Trail Association, said initially trail users would have access to some of the old logging roads through the 931-acre tract.
“Eventually, over the years, hopefully we’ll get to build some single track trail on that property,” Madden said. “The lockup gate on Cedartown-Cave Spring Highway is 1.8 miles from the Cave Spring city limit and is 2.4 miles from Rolater Park.”
Schock said the property was purchased for approximately $2 million, most of the money coming from a single contributor.
“We acquired it because of the opportunity to move the trail off a pretty dangerous road walk section so that it can actually go through the forest,” he said.
The Conservation Fund is a nonprofit organization and could apply to the county for tax exemption from property taxes, but Schock said that at this point the organization would continue to pay the property taxes just like any other owner.
“There is a tremendous opportunity on that property for economic development. The Pinhoti Trail is becoming increasingly popular in Georgia as a mountain biking destination,” Schock said. “With those 900 acres there’s the opportunity to develop not just on the Pinhoti, but side trails that loop around that really provide mountain bike opportunities as well as equestrian opportunities.”
The same group had previously purchased about 240 acres just to the west of the Santa Claus Mountain area, near Shorty Mountain in the Old Jackson Chapel Road area, which ties directly to the Pinhoti in Alabama.
The Conservation Fund also acquired nearly 250 acres in Chattooga County off Ga. 100 near the High Point trailhead.
Schock said Chattooga County Commissioner Jason Winters was instrumental in mobilizing county crews to help build a new section of the trail on the property acquired by the Conservation Fund.
“Commissioner Winters is pretty enthusiastic about it,” Schock said. “He gets the opportunity that the county can get some economic benefit from having the trail there.”
The Pinhoti was completed along the ridges from High Point all the way to Dalton several years ago.
Aside from the short Simms Mountain section in Floyd County, the Pinhoti around Rome consists primarily of road walks.
The Pinhoti Trail was conceived of as a connection from Alabama to the Appalachian Trail via the Benton McKaye Trail near Chatsworth. It is also a part of the Great Eastern Trail, which connects the Florida National Scenic Trail to the North Country National Scenic Trail in the New York Finger Lakes region.