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Editorials - Pickens Progress Online

Editorials

Roll out to discover the Peach State this summer

It’s finally summertime. 

The summer of 2021 is looking a lot different from last year. Perhaps a lot closer to normal, anyway. In June of 2020, there were still so many unknowns as we awaited word on how to safely proceed with life in a pandemic. An available vaccine was still six months away and our full summer of vacation plans, parties and social gatherings were unceremoniously cancelled. 

Suitcases collected dust, airplanes sat parked and we gathered via FaceTime and Zoom. 

Fast-forward 12 months, and Americans are back to old tricks. There’s traffic on the highways and the security lines at Hartsfield-Jackson are long, as once again as people are traveling. As of this writing, there are still imposed entry requirements for some destinations, and to get back into the United States, travelers over the age of two are required to provide proof of a negative COVID test. If that doesn’t appeal, perhaps an exploration of the Peach State would? (No testing required.)

Georgia is home to 49 state parks. Compared to our neighbors in Alabama, who have about half that, and Florida, with over 100, the plentiful Georgia parks have something for everyone. With a single tank of gas, one can make it from the mountains to the sandy beaches of the coast. Luckily, for residents of Pickens County, there are some outstanding parks in our area.     

Amicalola Falls State Park, just over Burnt Mountain, is about 20 miles from downtown Jasper. Amicalola Falls has two attractions unique to the park. The tallest waterfall in Georgia at 729 feet, the falls are an impressive sight to behold; stairs and trails provide viewing access. 

Besides the lodge, cabins and campsites, Len Foote Hike Inn offers accommodations for those willing to put in a little work. Hike Inn is accessed only via hike, so it’s best to pack light. It’s a beautiful bunkhouse in the woods with stunning views, a common room and dining hall for sharing meals. After checking in at the visitor’s center at the park, the path is an easy-to-moderate 5-mile trail through nature. From the inn, many seek out the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, just an additional 4.4 miles. Reservations are required at hike-inn.com. Kids are welcome, but no pets are allowed. This is a cool experience anytime of year, but fall is particularly spectacular. 

Unicoi State Park in Helen offers lodging from campsites to a hotel-type lodge. Unicoi has archery and a gun range, as well as an introduction to fly fishing class. Mountain bike trails wind through the scenic property. Helen is about an hour and a half from Jasper, making an easy day trip. Tubing in Helen is another fun adventure, enjoyable for kids and adults. Both Helen Water Park (helenwaterpark.com) and Cool River Tubing (coolrivertubing.com) offer tubing on the Chattahoochee. Helen Water Park—as the name implies—also has a modest water park with slides and a lazy river. This is a more manageable option than the larger water park in Marietta, which can be a lot for little kids (and parents of little kids). Helen also has several miniature golf courses … always a hit with families. 

Cloudland Canyon in Rising Fawn offers 64 miles of hiking trails and 30 miles of biking trails. On the western edge of Lookout Mountain, the views are breathtaking. Accommodations range from cottages to campsites to yurts. Cloudland Canyon is about two hours from Jasper.

The Georgia State Park website, gastateparks.org, is a super resource with links to all state parks. All the information a visitor could need, along with access to lodging reservations, trail maps and GPS coordinates.

Georgia state parks are only the tip of the iceberg. There is plenty to see and do within the Peach State that won’t cost more than a tank of gas. From the beaches to our beautiful mountains, there is something to do for every activity level and budget. 

Enjoy the summer! 

 

Keep it civil, people

The best lack all conviction

While the worst are full of 

passionate intensity 

- W. B. Yeats

A lot of us are frustrated by the continuing COVID-19 situation in this country and it’s easy to understand the pent-up anger. There is conflicting information and political angles alleged for every utterance. Conspiracy theories abound and fuel is added to fire by social media posts and national news networks where people with absolutely no relevant experience or education expound with vigorous and robust certainty that they have a full grasp of the situation.

There is no harm with long rants on Facebook or videos on Youtube. They are great places to be entertained, blow off steam, and completely uninformed opinions there fit right in with Russian misinformation.

On the other hand, we have heard several accounts, both right here in Jasper and around the country of teenagers, single moms and minimum wage employees being on the receiving end of extremely heated political rhetoric.

It’s ludicrous and sad to see someone want to do their Sean Hannity impression by berating a 16-year-old working a drive thru over their national company’s corporate policy.

What do they expect will happen? The high school kid will somehow pick up a direct line to corporate and call the CEO, “Hey, this is Jane Doe working the drive thru in Jasper, Ga. and we had a customer tell us we should take our masks off. Not sure if y’all over at corporate are aware of this, but there are some people who don’t believe in this mask wearing policy.”

Corporate CEO: “Oh. Wow. Really. We haven’t heard that. We thought everyone was on board.”

Jane Doe: “He was really fired up. Said he had watched eight different Youtube videos and read a blog and saw a cousin on Facebook post that a nurse told his wife at a gas pump that it was all a socialist hoax.”

Corporate CEO: “Wow. Had no idea. Masks are gone.”

In reality what most of the front line people, (here we mean the convenience store clerks, grocery employees along with the medical personnel) should tell someone pitching a fit about mask wearing: “I am making minimum wage, stressed to the max about whether my college is going to open, or if this place cuts back how I am going to make a car payment, or if the schools don’t open where am I  going to put my kids. And you’ve been sitting home all day watching crap online and now come out acting like a bigshot doctor with all the answers. But I don’t care what you say. My boss said wear a mask and to stand here and ask customers to wear a mask.”

The insults being directed towards the businesses themselves are particularly uninformed. When the businesses - the free-market capitalists themselves - are making decisions about what to do in their own privately built and operated stores, how can it be “a socialist plot?” We suspect people saying that don’t know what socialist means. Because when you get private business making their own decisions (even if that decision comes from a corporate board) that is as non-socialist as you get.

This is a tough, complicated time where there are decisions that can affect lives and livelihoods. There is no clearcut right answer about when something should open and people who think they have one, need to remind themselves of the complexity of a national healthcare issue with an epidemic.

Let’s support the people who are out working, the businesses who are making their own business decisions and facing the consequences and the community leaders who are doing their best with issues like school starts. Disagreement is fine. A healthy debate is fine (again as long as it’s not with someone just trying to take your order and keep their job). 

But do it with civility.

 

Voting no to SPLOST is cutting off your nose

By Dan Pool, Editor

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For much of the past year, I have editorialized and argued this SPLOST plan we vote on Tuesday didn’t contain nearly enough park spending. I spoke with our commissioners and encouraged them to significantly bump up the park allocations. They did increase it some. 

I had hoped parks would have been the key item. The commissioners saw otherwise with 43 percent of the projected $37 million  allocated to roads, while parks is second at 10 percent.

You don’t always get what you want, but, in this case, voting no for the SPLOST is a bad idea. Cutting off your nose to spite your face never works out. 

SPLOST is business; it’s not a place to let political differences hurt the property owners who literally will foot the bill (via higher property taxes) if the SPLOST flops at the polls.

I had pushed the commissioners to be more creative, find things to improve the overall quality of life here. What they chose were nuts and bolts (details appear in Page 1A article). There is nothing frivolous in the package.

This point was made abundantly clear during the county budget hearings when the sheriff was asked if his officers aren’t supplied new patrol vehicles through the sales tax, how will they be provided reliable transportation? The sheriff made it plain, they have to have patrol cars and the money must come from somewhere.

Looking around there aren’t other sources besides the SPLOST to scrape up $150,000 in new patrol cars every year other than property taxes. And it is far better to see these cars funded one penny per dollar at cash registers rather than by property taxes.

Sales taxes are fair taxes. If you spend a lot, you pay more. If you don’t spend much, you don’t pay as much. There is the added perk that all those people stopping here on their way to the mountains fund our road paving, water improvements and public safety. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true when local people choose to shop out of town or online.

There is a sense of urgency with the more than $5 million in public safety spending and the $1.1 million water/sewage needs. Those things are  needed and are going to be paid for soon.

From a strictly business-is-business standpoint, the 9.45 percent ($3.5 million) dedicated to erase debt at the airport makes the most sense to fund. What is being paid is a past debt for an idea that didn’t work out. The county’s plan under the final days of the Bill Newton administration of creating a commercial area connected to a taxiway has never gotten off the ground, to borrow a phrase we have used often over the past 15 years. The Progress ran a front page article from commercial aviation professional Dan Ashby warning this was a bad idea. Few agreed with him, believing businesses would flock to our airport. They haven’t.

Now, just like any small business mis-step, sometimes you must cut your losses. There is no reason to continue paying interest when we can pay it off. The county will own the horseshoe property and maybe something good will locate there eventually with a bunch of high-salary jobs and taxable private jets.

Paying old debts and paving roads may not be exciting but if you must do it, do it as painlessly as possible. 

Vote yes to the SPLOST.