A ribbon cutting on Saturday, Nov. 21, will mark the opening of the Garland Mountain Horse and Hike Trails in northwest Cherokee County.
The trail is a partnership between the Cherokee County government and the Cherokee County Saddle Club to provide greenspace for horseback riding and hiking.
The county purchased more than 400 acres on the mountain northwest of Waleska in 2003 for $1.1 million in state greenspace funds.
The trails were designed and constructed with volunteer labor and some donated machinery.
The opening this month is of the first phase of the trails, which stretches for 6 miles, according to Carolyn Stambaugh of the saddle club.
Eventually, she said, there will be about 13 miles of trails. "There could be even more than that."
The trails, when finished, will offer interconnecting loop trails going around hardwoods, streams and mountain scenery. They are open to the public to use at no charge.
"The land available to ride on is getting less and less" common, she said about the need for horse riding trails.
She said the trails are getting "an extraordinary response from different saddle clubs looking for new places."
The Cherokee Recreation and Parks Agency provided the parking lot for vehicles and horse trailers, restroom, information kiosk and a mounting block. The $75,000 for these amenities was funded by Recreational Trails Program grant from the state Department of Natural Resources.
Other clubs that have donated time to help with the trails include the Chattahoochee Trail Horse Association, Saddle-Up Cobb, Bent Tree Saddle Club, Back Country Horsemen of North Georgia and the Georgia Endurance Riders Association. She said 120 volunteers were involved in the completion of the trails, donating about 1,200 volunteer hours.
"It is another new destination," said Buzz Ahrens, chairman of the county board of commissioners.
Ahrens, who himself owns horses, volunteered some of his time to complete the trails.
"Once word gets out, there will be organizations holding rides and activities here," he said of its potential.
Ahrens said the county government ultimately would like to see an equestrian facility built in Cherokee that could be an economic driver.
"This is the beginning of having broader-based equine amenities," Ahrens said.