August 2020

Biggest Land Conservation Victory in a Generation

Called “a conservationist’s dream,” the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), which passed Congress in late July and is now on the President’s desk, supports two funding programs that together will help restore our much-loved, but aging, national parks – and also create jobs.  

GAOA creates a Legacy Restoration Fund that will provide $6.5 billion over the next five years to pay for deferred maintenance projects throughout the national park system. These funds are critically needed to replace and repair old, often unsafe, infrastructure, especially given the added pressure from increased visitation. The number of visitors to our national parks has increased by fifty percent since 1980, while the budget has remained virtually flat.

What sort of park projects need funding? Everything from sewage system upgrades (like the one at a riverside campground in Grand Canyon National Park), the replacement of unsafe electrical systems (like at Fort Mason, Golden Gate National Recreation Area) and leaks in historic buildings (like at Ebenezer Baptist Church, MLK Jr. National Historic Park) to decaying bridges (like at Arlington Memorial Bridge) and degraded hiking trails (like at Mammoth Cave National Park). At the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA), the deferred maintenance backlog is more than $15 million to upgrade trails, facilities and basic infrastructure that will improve visitor experience and safety.

Secondly, GAOA guarantees $900 million per year in perpetuity for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a conservation program funded by royalty payments from offshore oil and gas drilling in federal waters. The LWCF, which provides grants to state and local governments to purchase land for recreation and conservation, has been used repeatedly over the years to fund CRNRA land acquisitions. 

“The general public values national park land, waters, and programs at $92 billion per year – at least thirty times the annual budget they receive from Congress,” says Linda Bilmes, co-author of “Valuing U.S. National Parks and Programs: America’s Best Investment.”  Kudos to all who worked for decades to reach this goal! 

Photo: Wes Lopez

Hikes for Health Challenge Begins August 8

Spending too much time cooped up in the house, sheltering from the pandemic? We have a solution: the perfect way for you to see new parks, have fun and get exercise. National recreation retailer REI has joined forces with ten Atlanta organizations, including Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy (CNPC), for the Hike for Health Challenge. The challenge officially launches on August 8 during National Wellness Month, but you can get a jump on the competition by registering here. Mark your calendars to check out our social media (Facebook and Instagram links below) and follow monthly updates. 

Here are the basics: Register for the Challenge and, starting August 8, 2020, hike ten different parks, including any CRNRA unit over the next ten months. This is a great opportunity to get outside and explore some of the cool greenspaces in the Atlanta metro area. We look forward to seeing you in the CRNRA and all the other participating parks!

Participating organizations include Blue Heron Nature Preserve, Chastain Park Conservancy, Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy, Chattahoochee Nature Center, Dunwoody Nature Center, Friends of Lost Corner, Livable Buckhead, Parks Cobb County, Peachtree Creek Greenway, and Sandy Springs Conservancy.

Park Profile: Jeston Fisher

Growing up as an avid hunter and fisherman in upstate New York, Jeston Fisher thought that he might become a game warden one day. A nearby university offered one of the few degrees in conservation law enforcement in the country in the early 2000s, so Jeston applied and was accepted. Although he expected to work in law enforcement at the state level, a college mentor urged him to consider a federal agency. After securing post-graduate training, Jeston reached out to the National Park Service, was accepted initially as a seasonal ranger, and then began his tour around the park system and the country; the tour included intensive law enforcement training, a position at Shenandoah National Park (where he met his wife, also a park employee) and, most recently, Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Two months ago, Jeston moved to the CRNRA to take the position of Acting Chief Ranger, in charge of managing all enforcement activities from parking and other traffic violations (the number one complaint), water safety and dogs off leash to vehicle smash-and-grabs. With unusually high volumes of park visitors this summer, Jeston and his enforcement team have their hands full, but he is more than ready for the job, given his experience, competence and positive attitude. Jeston says that he loves the Southeast and hopes to stay here for a long time. We hope so too! 

Amphibians in the Park: Spotted Salamander

Our national park is home to more than thirty species of amphibians: cold-blooded animals that live on the land and depend on the sun to warm them, but breed in or near water. There’s a good chance that you will find them in the vicinity of the Chattahoochee River and its tributaries. A park favorite is the Spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum), which is common in the eastern United States (see photo).

Ranging from four to nine inches long, Spotted salamanders are usually a blue-black color with two irregular rows of round, yellowish spots from head to tail. Their optimal habitat is vernal ponds near deciduous forests. While they spend much of their time underground, these small amphibians migrate to woodland ponds to breed during warm, spring rains or on foggy nights with moderate temperatures. Adults feed on a variety of small forest invertebrate animals and insects. They may produce noxious skin secretions to repulse predators, so be careful if you handle them. Defensive posturing includes arching the body, tucking the head down to butt predators, biting, and lashing with the tail if attacked from the back.

Best Park in Sandy Springs!

We are pleased to report that the CRNRA recently won a voting contest in the city of Sandy Springs with a whopping 42% of the votes cast. Three of the national park’s fifteen units along the Chattahoochee River are located in Sandy Springs, which has 22 miles of Chattahoochee River frontage: Island Ford, Powers Island and East Palisades Units. For more information, see Visit Sandy Springs.

Park Post Needs a New Editor

We know that you’ve been wondering how you can help our beloved national park – given all the time you’ve had during the pandemic to think about how much you missed the CRNRA, when it was closed, and how much you enjoy visiting, now that it’s re-opened. CNPC Board Member Sally Bethea has written and managed the monthly production of this member newsletter for the past three and a half years. While she has enjoyed the task immensely, it’s time for someone else to have the fun. CNPC is seeking an individual with writing and/or editing experience to work with Board President Phillip Hodges to create the publication for distribution the first of each month; the monthly time commitment averages 6-8 hours. Contact, if you are interested in this volunteer position, or have ideas for park stories. Thanks!

Things To Do

Social Distance Safely in the Park! All park trails and the river are open for your enjoyment, but facilities are not all open yet. Bring your own water bottles and “go before you go.” Also, please leave no trace and pick up trash that others have left behind. Thanks! 

High Country Paddle Shack-SUP Yoga – Classes began Aug 2 at Overlook Park, Morgan Falls Lake. Details here.   

Family Canoe Day at Chattahoochee Nature Center – Sat, Aug 15 (10:30am-Noon). Details here.    

2020 VIRTUAL Parks and Greenspace Conference – Mon, Aug 17 (8am-2pm). Details here.  

10th Annual SWEEP THE HOOCH Cleanup– Sat, Aug 29 (9am-Noon)CNPC is again sponsoring the cleanup site at Whitewater/East Palisades. Register here and join us!

Become a CNPC member or donate today!

YOU can help us achieve our vision of an inspired and thriving community of support for the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.

CNPC is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. We are proud to support our Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, a unit of the national park system managed by the National Park Service.

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Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy
P.O. Box 769332, Roswell, GA 30076
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