U.S. Forest Service and Volunteers Celebrate National Public Lands Day with Events, Fee-Waivers – Sept. 27

(Gainesville, Ga.) September 19, 2014 – The U.S. Forest Service is offering a fee-free day on Saturday, Sept. 27 in conjunction with the 21st annual National Public Lands Day, the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands. Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forests and partnering organizations will host events across Georgia’s national forests that offer opportunities for individuals and families to join in an effort to improve the public lands they enjoy.

“If you love your national forests and the many recreation opportunities they have to offer, you have volunteers to thank,” said Forest Supervisor Betty Mathews. “Volunteering is a fantastic way for you and your family to connect with nature and to other folks who share similar interests. And no experience is needed—there are always things that anyone can do, regardless of age or skill level, to improve the forest for future visitors.”

National Public Lands Day encourages volunteers to explore and enjoy America’s natural wonders through outdoor recreation. Some of the scheduled events on Georgia’s national forests include:

Jake Mountain Trail: Join the Blue Ridge Ranger District, Chattahoochee Trail Horse Association and Southern Off Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) at the Jake Mountain Trail in Lumpkin County from 9:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. for a day of trail maintenance, education and fun. Many opportunities for learning about trail sustainability and fisheries will be a part of the celebration! Trout Unlimited will give a talk around 2:00 p.m. describing their work to improve local fish habitat. All in attendance are invited to a lunch at approximately 1:30 p.m. Please register by contacting Valencia Morris at (706) 745-6928 or vcmorris@fs.fed.us.

Ocmulgee Bluff Trail System: Join the Oconee Ranger District, Back Country Horsemen of Central and South Georgia, Heart of Dixie Horse Lovers Club, Rockdale Trail Blazers and Georgia Horse Council for a trail work day on Ocmulgee Bluff Trail System in Jasper County beginning at 9:30 a.m. General maintenance will include surface hardening, trail clearing and tree planting at the trailhead. To sign up and for directions, contact Jeff McDonald by email jmcdonald@fs.fed.us or call (706) 485-7110.

Volunteers should bring a lunch, snacks, or food to share, plenty of water, and a daypack to carry it all. They are asked to wear work gloves, sturdy shoes and bring a hard hat or bicycle helmet if one is owned. Most tools are provided by the Forest Service and partner organizations.

Among other partners, these National Public Lands Day events are supported by CoTrails, which is a collaborative effort among trail users and the Forest Service working together to develop a diverse, quality trail system that is maintainable and ecologically sustainable on the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests. Visit www.CoTrails.org for more information on these and other upcoming volunteer trail events.

The Forest Service offers fee-free days in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, National Get Outdoors Day, National Public Lands Day and Veterans Day Weekend. Fees are waived generally for day use areas, such as picnic grounds and developed trailheads. Fees are not waived for concessionaire-operated facilities or for overnight use such as camping. Contact your local national forest office to learn if your destination requires a fee and if that fee is waived.

For more information on how to get involved with volunteer efforts on the national forest, contact the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests office at (770) 297-3000 or visit the website at www.fs.usda.gov/conf. Smartphone and tablet users can also view news and events, including volunteer opportunities, by using the forest’s free mobile app. Download the app by visiting www.fs.usda.gov/goto/mobile-app.

For more information about National Public Lands Day, visit the website at www.publiclandsday.org.

The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests provide the finest outdoor recreation opportunities and natural resources in Georgia. Featuring nearly 118,000 acres of designated Wilderness, hundreds of miles of clear-running streams and rivers, approximately 850 miles of recreation trails, and dozens of campgrounds, picnic areas, and other recreation activity opportunities, these lands are rich in natural scenery, history and culture. The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests is part of the Southern Region, with the Forest Supervisor’s office in Gainesville, Georgia, managing four District units in Blairsville (Blue Ridge District), Lakemont (Chattooga River District), Chatsworth (Conasauga District), and Eatonton (Oconee District).

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