Originally created 08/30/97

Says Smithgall conservation area not limited to rich

Re the Aug. 26 article concerning the Smithgall Woods-Dukes Creek Conservation area in Helen:

According to the writer, the state has restricted use of the facility largely to Georgians with money or connections.

Having worked closely with Smithgall Woods over the last two years, I beg to differ. It is a heritage preserve, which means it can only be put to designated use, and has to be protected and properly managed. The conservation/education area consists of approximately 5,550 acres, with 50 acres designated for a conference center with overnight stays.

The conservation area, where gold was first mined in the United States, has been a great draw in our area. It is an excellent teaching tool for educators: Special nature programming is provided on weekends for visiting adults and children. At any time, visitors can find native trout, raccoons, wild turkeys, deer, beavers and other animals in the area.

When the transaction was completed between Charles Smithgall and the state, lodging facilities on the premises needed additional meeting space and bedrooms, which the state provided. From my perspective, the worst problem the state has is insufficient funds for a sales and marketing effort to fill the conference center and lodge.

I have visited rain forests in Costa Rica, and I am thrilled the state of Georgia and Mr. Smithgall cared enough to provide similar protection for the mountain forests of Northeast Georgia, so future generations can enjoy them as we do.

Helen D. Fincher, Helen

(Editor's note: The author is executive director of the Helen-White County Convention Visitors Bureau.)


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