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County considers Etowah launch
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Forsyth County News

At least one resident was excited to hear that Forsyth County is pursuing a possible kayak and canoe launch along the Etowah River.

"God bless America," long-time kayak instructor Richard Grove said. "Forsyth County needs this in the worst way."

The county commission on Tuesday gave staff the go-ahead to apply for a $2.12 million state grant to conserve some 201 acres along the river in the northwestern corner of the county.

The site has several owners, who Deputy County Manager Doug Derrer said have previously expressed a willingness to sell the land to the county.

Some of the grant money could be used to build a canoe launch at  "Eagle's Beak," a bend on the Etowah that is split by Old Federal Road.

A 60 percent match of $3.18 million is required of the county. According to Derrer, that funding could come from the parks, recreation and green space bond voters approved in February.

But if a study by county staff and the recently hired consulting firm Lose & Associates determines the site does not qualify as green space, Derrer said, then the county would abandon the project.

Grove hopes it doesn't come to that.

"If Forsyth County had river access on the Etowah, it would just be absolutely wonderful," he said. "I can't tell you how much that would mean to kayakers and canoeists."

Grove said he has taken more than 200 people down the river so far this year, launching from other locations, including in Dawson County.

"There's definitely a need in Forsyth and it will bring many more people to the county if it happens," he said.

The price tag for the project is $5.3 million. The Georgia Land Conservation Program provides state funding for preservation of land and water resources.

Grove spoke with excitement about the possibilities.

"What I hope," he said, "is that the county will have some kayakers and canoeists involved in the planning process. Let's have some people out there who have a concept of what needs to be built."

Grants Administrator Nancy Smallwood will spearhead the application process with help from Parks and Recreation Director Jerry Kinsey and Assistant Director Tommy Bruce.

The county recently directed staff to apply for another grant involving the Etowah. The county is seeking a $3.5 million grant from the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority to build a reservoir on the river.

A reservoir would give Forsyth another water resource besides Lake Lanier, which the ongoing severe drought has left some 15 feet below full pool.