Ground broken for state park in Coweta

Chattahoochee Bend will open in 2011

Ground has been broken on the long-planned Chattahoochee Bend State Park in northwest Coweta County.

When it opens in summer 2011, the 3,000-acre green space will be the fifth-largest among 64 state parks, according to Chris Clark, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. He said it also will be the closest state park to metro Atlanta that offers camping.

“We’ll have everything here from hiking to running to paddling, along with all the different camping experiences,” Clark said.

This virtually undisturbed, remote territory is nestled against the bend of the Chattahoochee River forming the southeastern border of Carroll County. David Freedman, DNR director of engineering and construction, said it has some “of the best exposed granite outcropping in the state.”

Jim McGuffey, who grew up in Coweta, mostly in Moreland about 30 miles southeast of the park, has been mesmerized by the tract all his life. He was county commissioner from 1995 to 2001, a period when the board voted to pursue a state park at Chattahoochee Bend. But McGuffey’s vision for this sprawling, diverse landscape dates to at least the mid-1980s.

“I’d say it was about that time,” McGuffey said, “when I not only started thinking about a possible state park here, but that this could actually be the culmination of all state parks. You look around and what we have here is nature, the river, wild land and a bunch of unbelievable, unconquered forests.”

Those elements also appealed to Freedman, the DNR’s leader for the project.

“The neat thing about this park,” Freedman said, “it’s been maybe 40 years since we’ve built a state park from scratch. This allows us to take all our years of experience and put it in one place.”

The $7 million phase one includes construction of a visitors’ building, along with various camping configurations including pioneer camping, which Freedman describes as “basically a three-sided shelter for organized groups like the Scouts.”

“We’ll have platform camping near the river,” he added. “This will be a no-roof facility with wooden platforms 4 to 6 feet off the ground. We’ll also offer river camping, accessible only from the river. We’ll have RV camping, tent camping and, eventually, back-country camping, where you can hike three, four, five miles and then set up camp.”

The first phase also will include 16 miles of trails for hiking, running and mountain biking. There are plans for a boat ramp, canoe and picnic areas, and a playground.

Phase two has not been funded or scheduled. Plans are to include equestrian trails and Freedman’s pet project, a “river lodge” featuring rooms with bunk beds, sleeping about 40 people.