The scene of a major Civil War battle in Whitfield County was the site of a recent tree cleanup, thanks to the efforts of Northwest Georgia SORBA, the local mountain bike advocacy group.
The “Buzzard’s Roost” property, located on Rocky Face Ridge east of I-75 just north of Dalton, is approximately 1,000 acres acquired with a generous grant from the Civil War Land Trust, Whitfield County funds, Lyndhurst Foundation and other local funds.
Buzzard’s Roost is of significant archeological value, as it was the site of the Civil War Battle of Mill Creek, the first altercation of the Atlanta Campaign. The property also contains unique terrain, slopes and ridges, and scenic views that offer significant outdoor recreation opportunities to local and regional residents.
Whitfield County and Northwest Georgia SORBA have agreed to develop hiking and mountain bike trails on this property to enhance the outdoor recreation opportunities while preserving the historic Civil War entrenchments as a nationally significant cultural resource.
SORBA members have been doing hikes up from the Grant Farm property to the top of the ridge over the past year to assess how to progress with trail development.
“In doing that, we noted a lot of trees had fallen across the current hiking trail and on the rock earthworks,” said Ginnie Dasinger, a member of the SORBA board of directors. “Whenever we see trees across trails, it’s just in our nature to clean it up. Plus, it looks better and allows other hikers to stay on the trail and not make side routes around trails (that is bad for soil erosion).”
SORBA has six certified sawyers through the National Forest Service, and they recently went up on three occasions and cleaned all the trees off the trail that runs along the spine of the ridgeline, which is where most of the Civil War rockworks are located.
Volunteers doing the work were SORBA members Bill Hester, Chris Zimmerman, Marcus Moore, Steve Harrell, Chris Hohol, and Dasinger.
“We are extremely excited about the future potential of Buzzard’s Roost/Rocky Face Ridge from both a trail aspect and Civil War historic standpoint,” Dasinger said.
Northwest Georgia SORBA has developed a preliminary trail route for about eight miles of trail looping around the ridge, laid out using Department of Natural Resources maps of plotted historic earthworks and rockworks.
“We made sure not to cross the trail over any of those sites,” Dasinger said. “Plus, we are intentionally keeping the trail away from the major rock wall along the ridgeline. There is a trail that currently runs beside the wall, but it is hiking only and will remain so.”
SORBA is continuing to work with the local Historic Preservation Committee to place the trail in a mutually agreed upon route that avoids areas where major fighting occurred in the February and May 1864 battles.
The final trail route must be approved by an archeological assessment group, Civil War Trust, and Georgia Piedmont Land Trust before any actual trail work can begin.
“There are huge checks and balances occurring with this project,” Dasinger said, “but this is understandable since this is somewhat of a new venture of combining mountain biking and historic preservation.”
Most of the trails, she said, will be on the ridge and not on the Grant property in the valley since this was an area of major fighting in the February campaign. The Grant property will primarily be hiking only.