Saturday, February 2, 2019

Georgia: Equestrian community behind trail development at Don Carter State Park - Full Article

By Jane Harrison

The rhythmic thud of hooves on soft earth, gentle rocking of the saddle, and view of woods and water from a higher perspective transport horseback riders to tranquility on trails. Recently opened equestrian trails at Don Carter State Park make it easier for local equestrians to embark on that journey on the shores of Lake Lanier.

Local equestrians praise the 12½ miles of trails on territory historically known as horse country for their lake views, serpentine courses, bridge crossings, and deep woods. But best of all, they enjoy their proximity to their own barns and pastures. “It’s easy to sneak away to Don Carter to ride for a couple of hours,” said Bobbie Byers, four-year president of the 80-member Chattahoochee Trail Horse Association (CTHA). The Cleveland resident mounts her palomino or chocolate-brown Tennessee Walking Horse on state park trails once or twice a week, weather and work permitting. “I feel very blessed they’re opened,” she said “They’re absolutely beautiful.”

David DeLozier agreed. It’s even easier for him to hit the trail from his North Browning Bridge Road property, where the park maintains a neighborhood access for the horseback riders living nearby. He and wife, Dixie, can saddle up their Paso Finos and ride right onto what he calls some of the prettiest trails in the state.

“Some are right on the lake, the views are great … I’ve ridden almost every trail in Georgia and I think these are some of the best views. Some are high with long views, others are down close to coves and creeks were we can get water for our horses,” he said.

The s-turns, tree canopy, multiple bridges and changing elevations give both horse and rider a fun outing on four main loops with connecting routes. It took “a long time” to get the trails open, DeLozier said, but the wait was worth it.

Decades before the park opened in 2013, riders from northern Hall County’s horse country along Clarks Bridge and North Browning Bridge roads hoofed it in “the Glades,” old logging roads and private paths near the lake’s headwaters on the Chattahoochee River.

Then, word came that the private property they rode as public domain was sold to develop a state park. Early on, Byers said, there was no plan for equestrian trails in the woods rich in local horse-riding history. “This was a huge black eye to the horse community that equestrians were left out of the park,” Byers said. “They’d been riding that area for I can’t tell you how long.”

CTHA galloped into action, forming a committee to confer with state park planners...

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