Georgia Voices: New protection for the Hooch’s Headwaters
by The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer
January 02, 2013 12:46 AM | 2836 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For too long now, bad news about the Chattahoochee River has generally overshadowed the good. But some of the latter arrived last week with a report that some key riverfront land near the river’s headwaters will become part of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Not only does this mean more of the upper Chattahoochee will be protected from development, but it will also be more accessible campers, hikers, kayakers and other lovers of the outdoors.

The tract, on the stretch of the river near Helen in the north Georgia mountains, was purchased by the Trust for Public Land in 2010. Thanks for support from private foundations — the David, Helen and Marian Woodward Fund, the Patterson Family Foundation — and the Chattahoochee River Protection Fund, the trust was able to sell the land to the Forest Service for only $110,000, less than half what it paid two years ago.”

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’s Georgia director. It will also further protect upper Chattahoochee water quality.

A long-term goal, according to an Associated Press report last week, is to link the Appalachian Trail’s southern terminus at Springer Mountain to the river, so that hardy trail travelers can continue all the way to the Gulf of Mexico by a combination of boating and portaging/hiking along the banks. A stop in Columbus for the whitewater run should of course be part of the itinerary.

Good education news has been as hard to find as good river news. But Georgians got some a couple of weeks ago with Gov. Nathan Deal’s announcement in late November that his proposed 2013 budget includes funding to restore all the days cut from prekindergarten programs. Twenty days were deleted from the state’s pre-K calendar two years ago, when soaring college costs and sagging lottery revenues that fund the HOPE scholarship program prompted state officials to cut pre-K to sustain HOPE.

The General Assembly was able to restore 10 of those days in this year’s budget, “and being able to put 10 more back [in 2013] will bring us back to where we were,” Deal said.

There are currently about 83,000 Georgia children in pre-K programs, with another 10,000 on waiting lists. There is little credible dispute among educators and child specialists that early sensory and mental stimulation is a key factor in a child’s learning curve as he or she progresses through school.

Cutting education funding, even, as in this case, for the sake of another education program, is ultimately false economy.

Restoring that funding will pay for itself many times over in the years to come.
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