Improvements planned at Chatt-Bend Park
by Bradley Hartsell
Tim Banks, park manager of Chattahoochee Bend State Park in western Coweta, spoke at Friday's Newnan Rotary Club luncheon about several improvements the park is undertaking.
Since the 2,900-acre Chattahoochee Bend State Park opened in July 2011, the fifth largest state park in Georgia has grown into a formidable tourist destination and a source of revenue, and it's only going to get better, Banks told the Rotarians during the meeting at Newnan Country Club.
Banks took over as park manager in October 2012, bringing 30 years of experience with him and a strong vision for how to improve the park.
'He's been a professional visionary for the park,' said Friends of Chattahoochee Bend State Park member Dean Jackson. 'Tim's a wonderful manager. He understands parks flourish with partnerships.'
Jackson says under the leadership of Banks and the dedication of volunteers, Chattahoochee Bend is on the verge of acquiring Bush Head Shoals and its 700 acres to merge with the park's current 2,900 acres.
In addition, to Bush Head Shoals and its notable whitewater, something Jackson specifically mentioned as a point of excitement for the board members, the park is cleaning up its five miles of river. Banks and his team have already cleaned the river three times this year, each time collecting more than a ton of garbage.
The hard work has led to cleaner, better smelling hiking and paddling experiences for park-goers. This is particularly important to Banks as paddlesports have seen 275 percent growth in the past few years, something he foresees as a big part of the park going forward.
'I think there's a lot of opportunity for the park as a tourist destination,' said Banks. 'We're trying to continue to build the park atmosphere for folks to fully enjoy.'
The major projects at hand are building new bike and equestrian trails, tallying more than 30 miles in total, adding to the 'really nice network of trails' and constructing bridges along the river. Horace King's covered bridges are of historic importance to Georgia, as he built numerous bridges during the Civil War. Banks says the park will take inspiration from King's work to construct its own covered bridge.
Banks talked with pride of the diversity of the ecosystem found at Chattahoochee Bend - such as the Montane longleaf pine and the bigleaf magnolia, which has the largest simple leaf and single flower of any native plant in North America.
He also mentioned how the park is collecting bats, in hopes of reaching 400, so that they will eat most of the area's mosquitoes, a move that would improve conditions for campers.
Banks was gracious and gave thanks to the Rotary Club, which has supported the park since its groundbreaking in 2009.
Today, the park averages 100,000 visitors a year and generates a $4 million impact on the area. To bolster that impact and become more self-sufficient, the park is hoping to add overnight facilities.
Banks and Jackson are both hopeful the excitement surrounding the park will continue to spread in the community.