James July-Aug 2021 web - Flipbook - Page 37
OVID-19 got a lot of people thinking about
a lot of things. There was certainly plenty of
time for it. Whether from not spending much
time in the office or thinking about how they
want to spend their time, a lot of people started looking
to the outside for experiences. During a time when not
much else was open, folks who wanted to get out of their
house where they had been trapped began visiting parks
and other greenspaces. As places like restaurants and
movie theaters sat empty, local and state parks were filling up— in some places in numbers never before seen.
National parks often get much of the attention but
some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes, and ones
without nearly as many people as their national counterparts, are in the country’s many state parks.
Georgia has 63 different state parks and historic sites,
part of approximately 750,000 acres dedicated to parks or
wildlife areas. The state ranks 35th for percentage of area
dedicated to parks or wildlife, with two percent of our
total land area reserved.
Research from the Outdoor Industry Association
found that 58 percent of Georgia residents participate in
outdoor recreation every year. All that outdoor recreating
means a lot to the Georgia economy, totaling more than
PHOTO CREDIT EXPLOREGEORGIA
$27 billion in consumer spending every year and nearly
250,000 direct jobs in the industry. Those jobs tally up to
more than $8 billion in wages and salaries, with $1.8 billion in state and local tax revenue. Nationally, more money
is spent on outdoor recreation than on pharmaceuticals or
motor vehicles and parts.
Georgia is one of the most biodiverse states in the
country. In fact, it is one of the most biodiverse places on
earth. The combination of the ancient Appalachian mountains, the Piedmont fall line and our 100 miles of coastline
mean we have a range of ecosystems unlike most states.
Part of this is due to just how old those mountains are
and our proximity to the ocean. Some researchers estimate that parts of the state have been eroding for a billion
or so years and other parts were under ancient seas. All
sorts of different rock types— metamorphic, igneous and
sedimentary— are found here. This all results in different
types of soil and helps to create that biodiversity.
Another key factor is the rain. And lots of it. North
Georgia gets nearly as much rain as anywhere. Atlanta
gets more than 50 inches of rain annually, Seattle only
gets 38 or about the U.S. average. All that water, combined with our long growing season and mild temperatures, makes for a very healthy environment for plants—
there are a greater number of tree
species in Georgia than in the
entire continent of Europe.
Where to go around the state
Georgia’s state parks offer a
chance to visit all those ecosystems
and every part of the state.
Travel+Leisure magazine released their “Best State Park in
Every U.S. State” in May and Tallulah Gorge State Park was the winner
for Georgia. Called “one of the most
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