The restoration of the Chattahoochee River area, led by the Trust for Public Land, is a fantastic development for the entire country.
by Newt Gingrich
On Wednesday, I took a day off and wandered around Georgia with my daughter Jackie and her husband Jimmy Cushman.
I had given Jackie my pledge to do whatever she wanted, and she chose one of her great passions, the Trust for Public Lands (TPL). She has been involved with TPL for the last 15 years and is currently the chairman for Georgia.
Their biggest and most successful project in Georgia has been saving and reclaiming the Chattahoochee River.
I first began to be involved with the Chattahoochee when I was teaching environmental studies at West Georgia College in 1971. At one time the Chattahoochee was considered one of the most endangered rivers in America because of all the pollution from Atlanta. Two generations of work have gone into cleaning up the Atlanta water system – and cleaning up industrial waste and non-point pollution (the worst of which is apparently dog feces which pet owners have failed to clean up). All these things pour into the river after every rain.
George Dusenbury, the TPL Georgia director, showed Jackie and me around the new Chattahoochee Riverlands project which will ultimately involve 100 miles of river front trails. The plan will include sleeping areas, picnic areas, bathrooms, bike trails, walking trails, places to put in kayaks, canoes and fishing boats.
Ultimately the Riverlands trails will connect with trails along the upper Chattahoochee and will end within a half mile of the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. For the hardy and committed, it will be possible to fly into Atlanta and walk all the way to Maine.
This is an amazing transformation from the Chattahoochee of 50 years ago. Local governments, the state of Georgia, the federal government, and the private sector led by the Trust for Public Land have combined to create one of the most amazing river developments in the entire country.
Since TPL got involved more than 30 years ago, more than 18,000 acres and 80 miles of riverfront have been protected from development and placed in the public’s hands – including more than 1,000 acres of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA).
This was achieved because TPL brought together more than 80 municipalities and private organizations into a Chattahoochee working group.
Millions of people live within a reasonable distance of the Chattahoochee River. The National Recreation Area (which I helped develop as Speaker of the House as part of a private-public partnership involving foundations, businesses, and state, county, and federal government support) is an enormously popular and heavily used outdoor recreation asset for the Atlanta region. Its 10,000 acres provide ample room for hiking, boating, fishing, bird watching, and other recreational activities. As the most southern site for trout, the Chattahoochee also offers a number of unique fishing opportunities.
Literally millions go to the National Recreation Area every year.
I am deeply proud of my daughter Jackie and her 15 years of hard work for the Trust for Public Lands. It was a lot of fun, and immensely gratifying as a father to go with her and see the current accomplishments – and the dreams she and TPL have for an even better Chattahoochee experience of the future.
Many people forget, conservation is at the heart of conservatism. The Chattahoochee and environments like it must be reclaimed and protected for future generations of Americans to enjoy.
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