ATLANTA (AP) -- A key piece of property near the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River in north Georgia will become part of the Chattahoochee National Forest, giving the public more access to the water and surrounding woods, officials with a national land trust said Monday.
The land, north of Helen, includes more than 500 feet along the Chattahoochee's west bank, according to the Trust for Public Land. It will now be available for boaters to access the river in an area that's popular for trout fishing, officials said.
"Protecting this Chattahoochee River property for the National Forest will enhance public access to thousands of acres of recreational lands," said Curt Soper, The Trust for Public Land's Georgia state director.
Protecting the land is also important in efforts to preserve water quality in the river's headwaters region, the trust said. The Chattahoochee supplies drinking water to communities downstream, including metro Atlanta.
"This addition to the Chattahoochee National Forest will help to further protect a primary source of clean water for metro Atlanta, as well as provide superb recreational opportunities for forest visitors," said Ed Hunter, Chattooga River District Ranger for the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests.
Long-term, the land could one day become part of a vision to link the Appalachian Trail with the Chattahoochee River, giving hikers the opportunity to continue south on land or water.
The Chattahoochee's headwaters, in the north Georgia mountains, are near the trail's southernmost section.
Conservationists have been working to make more of the Chattahoochee accessible to canoes and kayaks, and some stretches of the river already have miles of hiking trails along its banks. Eventually, supporters hope it will be possible for hikers on the Appalachian Trail to reach the Gulf of Mexico with a combination of boating down the river and hiking along its banks.
The trust had purchased the land for $250,000 in 2010. It was able to sell it to the Forest Service for $110,000 by securing support from its Chattahoochee River Protection Fund; the David, Helen and Marian Woodward Fund; and The Patterson Family Foundation Inc.