Public Access to Mt. Yonah Secured (GA)

ATLANTA, GA, 6/3/2003–The Trust for Public Land conveyed 287 acres in White County, Georgia to the United States of America this month. The land (formerly known as the Chambers’ property) will be managed by the USDA Forest Service as part of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Funding for the acquisition was provided by the Land & Water Conservation Fund.

“Over 4 million people live in the metro-Atlanta area and look to the mountains for an enjoyable day hike, a weekend escape or a paddle through whitewater,” says Slade Gleaton, TPL-Georgia project manager. “The desire to be in the mountains has resulted in rapid development of secondary homes in north Georgia and increased recreational demands on the national forest. Mount Yonah is becoming increasingly popular.”

“Over the years TPL has worked with the USDA Forest Service throughout the Chattahoochee National Forest” says Gleaton, “and this acquisition is the most recent at Mount Yonah.”

The Georgia congressional delegation played a key role in appropriating the necessary funds for the acquisition. Senator Zell Miller, former Senator Max Cleland, and Congressman Nathan Deal obtained the appropriations over a two-year period. When some of the funds were temporarily taken away last summer due to the Forest Service’s firefighting needs in the West, the delegation successfully pressed for the return of this money to the Chattahoochee National Forest.

“Funding for this project is a huge victory for Georgia, Mount Yonah and everyone who loves the environment,” says Senator Zell Miller (D-Georgia). “I am proud that my fellow colleagues in Congress recognized the importance this treasured resource.”

Mount Yonah is located in the Chattahoochee National Forest between Cleveland and Helen in northeastern Georgia, closest to the town of Helen. Although located in the public Chattahoochee National Forest, Mount Yonah was completely surrounded by private property. With the acquisition of the Chambers’ tract, not only will a critical view shed be permanently protected, but the Forest Service will be able to complete its plans for adequate public access to the flat granite-face of Mount Yonah, one of the most popular climbing and repelling sites in Georgia.

“We already had acquired a right-of-way across the property,” says USDA Forest District Ranger Michael Gryson. “This purchase encompasses that easement, and gives us more options when designing road access as well as parking.”

“The Trust for Public Land continues to be a valuable ally in acquiring these kinds of lands,” says Ranger Gryson. “Without their help we would never be able to do what we do. Now that we finally have this property, we hope to have our plans for the access road completed by fall of this year.”

“I used to look up at the mountain and worry about what might happen to it and the lands below- and about what our parents might have liked to see happen,” says previous owner Lanier Chambers. Chambers spent his childhood under the shadow of Mount Yonah, and he and his family are pleased with the prospect that this important landmark is now safely protected for future generations. “To say that we’re pleased that the Trust for Public Land and our congressmen and senators helped us save this special place in an understatement. We’re certainly appreciative of their efforts in making this happen”

“This is a significant piece of the puzzle” says Russ Marane, state director of TPL-Georgia. “Not only will this help assure continued recreational access to the mountain, but it also will protect the forest below Mount Yonah, which, in turn, will protect the forested views and water quality. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

About Mount Yonah: Mount Yonah is a granite monolith similar to Stone Mountain near Atlanta and has several hidden springs. It continues to be a spiritual and sacred power point to the native Americans, the top of its cliffs once having been used as a tribal ceremonial site. There is also a legend of a Cherokee Princess and a young Warrior who jumped off the cliff rather than be separated.

About the Chattahoochee National Forest: The Chattahoochee National Forest runs through the ridges and valleys of the southern Appalachians in north Georgia, encompassing such important natural areas as the Chattooga Wild & Scenic River, the Cohutta Wilderness and Mount Yonah. This forest was officially established in 1936 and continues to serve as important habitat for over 500 wildlife species and many mountain species of plants. There are over 1000 miles of primary trout and warm-water streams within the forest. The Chattahoochee National Forest is critical for the recreational needs of all Georgians, but especially the burgeoning population of Atlanta, which is within a 2 hour drive to most points in the forest.

About TPL: Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land specializes in conservation real estate — applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. Across the nation, TPL has saved more than 1.4 million acres of land. In Georgia, TPL has helped protect land throughout the state – including nearly 70 miles along the Chattahoochee River. It has also conserved land on Georgia’s coast and rivers, and in urban centers.