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Para pilots proposal moves to commission
Sawnee mountain

A paragliding group hoping to use Sawnee Mountain as a takeoff point received some mixed news this week.

During a recent meeting, the county’s parks and recreation board voted 4-0 to move ahead with Southern Para Pilots proposal, which will next go to the county commission. Commissioners will be asked to look at the Barker House, located at the top of the mountain, for which the county currently does not have plans.

Parks Director Jim Pryor said using the house might be an issue.

“The Barker House property is really the hang up on this on the staff side, because the county owns it but it is not being called a park right now,” Pryor said. “We don’t know what we’re going to do with it; it’s gone back and forth. It’s gone through multiple studies.”

Pryor said if the group was responsible for insurance, as they presented, the county would not have an issue from the risk management side.

The group is hoping to use the house as a takeoff point and land on private property below.

Paragliding involves using a large aerodynamic parachute, known as a wing, to glide to a landing spot and can last anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours, depending on conditions.

If approved, the site would only be open to members of the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, which are required to sign a release of liability.

The group currently flies out of Bell Mountain in Hiawassee and Pigeon Mountain in Lafayette, as well as in Alabama, Tennessee and North and South Carolina.

The group first presented the plan at the board’s June meeting, but there were not enough members to vote on the proposal. At that meeting, Pryor said staff would do due diligence on the proposal.

The county commission will review the Barker House as it relates to the group at a future meeting.