Money OK'd for park near Whitesburg

By JEFF BISHOP jbishop@newnan.com The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Board has approved $100,000 for Moore's Bridge Park on the Coweta/ Carroll County border for eight miles of trail, a canoe launch and picnic areas. The Carroll County project is one of 14 recreation projects statewide approved by the board, totaling $1 million.
The federal Land and Water Conservation Fund helps communities acquire land, develop parks and renovate existing properties. The recreational grant program is administered through the DNR, with officials reviewing 52 applications this year. Final approval is granted by the Department of Interior. "The Department of Natural Resources is thrilled to be a part of this program that provides financial support to our communities and additional recreational opportunities for Georgia's citizens," said Chris Clark, Commissioner of Natural Resources. The Carroll County Department of Community Development staff submitted a pre-application in May. The source of the $50,000 Carroll County cash match will be proceeds from the 2003 and 2008 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). The source of in-kind match will be county labor and equipment. In 2009, Carroll County purchased 485 acres (Moore's Bridge Park) from the Trust for Public Land for use as a passive recreation park. This park is located near Whitesburg in southeast Carroll County and buffers 1.4 miles of the Chattahoochee River. The park is layered with history, including Civil War, Native American, African-American and transportation-related history. This site once served as "the gateway to southern Carroll County." A key feature of Moore's Bridge Park is the historic James Moore House. Moore was originally the land owner of this property, and his house is the most historically significant feature still standing on the site. The James Moore house is centrally located within the park just above the former Horace King covered Bridge site. The first Moore's Bridge was built in 1857 by King, who was also a one-third owner along with James Moore and Charles Mabry. This 480-foot-long wooden covered bridge spanning the Chattahoochee River was burned by Union troops during the Civil War on July 14, 1864. King built a second wooden covered bridge between 1867 and 1868, which he also co-owned with Moore and Mabry. This bridge was washed away in the flood of 1881. During the early 1900s the Jones family acquired the site and erected a metal bridge across the Chattahoochee in 1917. Remnants of the 1917 metal bridge are still visible at the park site. Carroll County will recognize the historical significance of the site with interpretive signage and various programs. Community Development staff worked with Daryl Johnson with Carroll County Parks & Recreation, who recommended a variety of features to incorporate into Moore's Bridge Park. Initial ideas include: * A trail system that incorporates restored trails with new trails, including horse trails. The trail system will be the "veins" of the park, as they will traverse the site and tie together the various features. * Creation of a replica covered bridge across a water body within the park, in honor of the historical Horace King covered bridge. * Construction of two other bridges. * Establishment of a canoe/kayak launch on the Chattahoochee River. * Adding a parking area at each of the park's two entries. * Construction of two comfort centers that will be designed with environmental-friendly principles (such as waterless toilets). * Signs at both park entrances, as well as interpretative signs within the park. * Camping areas. "The old bridge was on the old Carrollton Road," said Doug Mabry, a Carroll County historian and researcher. The original crossing on the county line near Whitesburg was east of the current Highway 16 bridge and crossing. On the Coweta side, the old road now dead-ends into a private farm. Mabry explained that King was an African-American architect and engineer who built covered bridges over every large river in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi -- using his skills to transcend the limits of slavery. He and his family lived for years on the Chattahoochee River, on the Carroll County side of the line, near Whitesburg. They farmed land on the Coweta side of the river. "There's an irony there, that this was an African-American entrepreneur of the first magnitude, and the Yankees burned down his bridge," said Mabry. Mabry envisions the new park as part of what may eventually be an uninterrupted trail system along the river, through McIntosh Reserve on the Carroll side and on into the new Chattahoochee Bend State Park on the Coweta side. "This area was one of the most important unprotected heritage areas remaining in the Southeast, and it could play a significant role in the county's evolving heritage tourism initiative," Carroll County Commission Chairman Bill Chappell told Georgia Trend magazine. The original Moore's Bridge was described by Maj. Gen. George Stoneman in 1864 as "a covered structure, very well built, 480 feet long, on two main spans." By the mid-1850s, King had constructed six large bridges over the Chattahoochee at five different sites, according to John S. Lupold and Thomas L. French, who wrote a book about King called "Bridging Deep South Rivers." "In 1855 or 1856 King first met James D. Moore, who together with King and Charles Mabry of Franklin formed a partnership known as the Arizona Bridge Company, which built Moore's Bridge across the Chattahoochee on the road from Newnan to Carrollton," Lupold and Thomas state in the book. The bridge "played a central role" in King's life, they wrote, because King was made a one-third stockholder in the bridge company. "King protected that asset by moving his family to Moore's bridge, where they collected the tolls," they wrote. The King family lived in a small house next to the west end of the bridge, and the Moore house still stands on a hill just above. "Horace's family also farmed 25 acres of H.J. Garrison's land on the eastern side of the Chattahoochee River in Coweta County," Lupold and French said. King recounted that in 1864 he "read an account in the paper that the Union army had burned my bridge and as my family lived right at it, I got permission to come back to look after them, and when I got home the Union troops had been gone about two days and all (my food and other possessions) gone and my family was in distress." Historian David Evans, who has Coweta connections, described the fate of the bridge: "Braving a hail of bullets," a lieutenant from the First Kentucky Calvary "dashed toward the bridge with a flaming torch and thrust it into the dry pine knots and straw the Rebels had stuffed into" the latticework of the bridge. He "ran the gauntlet again and rejoined his comrades just as the smoke began billowing from the cavernous mouth of the span. Flames burst through the roof. Timbers cracked and groaned, and after a few minutes the bridge slid off its piling and plunged into the river."


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