September 2020

Fixing Our Park! Jones Bridge Observation Deck

One of the best views in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA) is from an old observation deck in the Jones Bridge Unit that overlooks a beautiful set of shoals, appropriately named Jones Bridge Shoals; fly fishermen and paddlers can often be seen enjoying the river here. (Unfortunately, remains of the historic truss bridge built in 1904 collapsed into the river in 2018, after support piers gave way.)

The observation deck is easily accessible from the flat trail that runs along the river in this 194-acre park unit off Barnwell Road in north Fulton County; however, the structure, which is at least four decades old, has deteriorated significantly in recent years and is increasingly unsafe. Last year, Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy (CNPC) was awarded a $50,000 grant through the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta to replace the deck – a top priority for the National Park Service (NPS). Our partner Upper Chattahoochee Chapter Trout Unlimited has designed and funded a spectacular interpretive sign about aquatic species that will be installed at the deck.

With environmental compliance tasks completed and permits secured, we are now ready to build the new deck; construction is expected to begin this month and take several weeks. Thanks to the following CNPC board members who helped secure the necessary funds and are now overseeing project implementation, working closely with park staff: Sally Bethea, Phillip Hodges, Britt Storck and Sarah Boyer.

Board Profile: Sarah Pfeffer

Outdoor sports have always been Sarah Pfeffer’s passion – from growing up as a cross-country runner and rower on the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh to running the trails in the CRNRA today. She is a self-professed nature-lover who believes strongly in providing access and opportunity to outdoor recreation to everyone: a major reason why she joined the CNPC board last year. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, which she attended on an athletic scholarship and where she rowed for the Badgers women’s team, Sarah returned to Pittsburgh to enter the MBA program at Duquesne University and coach rowing.

Five years ago, Sarah moved to Atlanta with her fiancé, now husband, Alex, and began working for Cox Communications. Today she is a Senior Manager for Operations for Cox Business, helping large customers with their communication needs. Sarah says that her favorite CRNRA units are Cochran Shoals (for running) and Island Ford, both about fifteen minutes from her home and where she often takes her 10-month old son, Henry. Sarah’s organizational and communication skills have already been a big help to our efforts, including her guidance when we changed our name earlier this year. Thanks, Sarah!

Otters in the Park

There is a good chance you have encountered the North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) if you are a frequent paddler on the Chattahoochee River or spend time along the banks of our national park. This semi-aquatic mammal is a streamlined swimmer with a water repellent coat of fur, webbed toes, a tapered tail, and the ability to close its nostrils and ears when under water. Otters can be three to four feet in length, including tail, and weigh between 11 and 31 pounds.

Fish are the favored food of otters; however, they are opportunistic carnivores and also eat salamanders, frogs, small turtles, crayfish, and birds. They frequently hunt at night, using their long whiskers to detect prey in dark waters. Otters establish burrows close to the water’s edge with multiple tunnel openings, one of which allows access to the water. They may also reside in log cavities and bank overhangs. Their typical lifespan is eight to nine years. Threats to otters include coyotes, environmental pollution, and habitat destruction.

To see other mammals within the CRNRA and post your own observations, check out

Photo: Harris Clayton 

Countering Racism in National Parks

A recent National Geographic article by James Edward Mill explores racism in national parks and efforts to counter the perception among Black people that they don’t belong outdoors. Although Black Americans represent 13.4 percent of the U.S. population, they make up less than two percent of national park visitors (The George Wright Forum, 2018). Mill says the great outdoors has never been a welcoming place for people of color, evidenced by more than a century of land management policies that have ignored them.

The national park system was established in 1916 – with some proponents openly stating that the natural wonders should be protected for the white aristocracy – and it wasn’t until 1945 that desegregation was mandated in all parks. In 2017, President Barack Obama issued a memorandum meant to correct racial bias and injustice on public lands by encouraging park stewards to embrace a more inclusive and complete story of America, involve diverse voices in public land decisions, and tell the stories of everyone who contributed to the historic character of our land.

Jonathan Jarvis, a former NPS director, says that institutional racism issues in federal land management agencies are real and that the current administration has put the Obama initiatives on hold. Jarvis: “There’s no [NPS] director, so there’s a real lack of leadership and vision about what the park service is supposed to be doing.”

Vote to Clean Up Tire Dumps and More

On this November’s General Election ballot, will be an important question that, if approved by the majority of voters, will help clean up our rivers, parks and communities. You will be asked if you support a Constitutional amendment to dedicate fees collected to clean up tire dumps, landfills and hazardous waste sites, so these funds will be used for their intended purposes. For example, when you buy a new tire, the seller adds a $1 fee that is supposed to be used to clean up tire dumps along roads and waterways.

Since the early 2000s, the solid and hazardous waste trust funds have been raided by the state legislature and diverted to the general fund: a bait-and-switch maneuver that has long concerned local governments, conservation organizations and others. For more than a decade, these groups have fought to change the law that has allowed more than $150 million of the collected fees to be diverted; they finally prevailed during the recent legislative session. If the amendment passes in November, legislators still need to pass a bill next year to make the fee dedication a state law. Then, the fee revenue collected to protect our natural environment and communities from pollution will be available for that important purpose.

Photo: Gwinnett County, City of Sugar Hill and the Lanier High School football team worked with CNPC board member Tammy Bates and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper to remove 640 tires from an illegal dump. 


Thanks to everyone who volunteered for the 10th Annual Sweep the Hooch on August 29. Literally tons of trash were removed from the river and park units in the CRNRA. Cleanup statistics to follow on CNPC’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Sign up at a links below!

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!

BacteriALERT Monitoring Program. Ever wonder about the quality of the water in the CRNRA? CNPC supports the program managed by the NPS, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, and U.S. Geological Survey to weekly test these recreational waters. Details here.

Hikes for Health Challenge – August 2020 – June 2021. Register here and hike ten different parks in metro Atlanta, including the CRNRA, in this challenge supported by national recreation retailer REI.   

Celebrating the Chattahoochee: A Virtual Experience – Sept 10 (6:30-7:45pm) Join Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s annual event online FOR FREE. Register here.

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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