LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN, Ga. - After years of "painstaking" work, a dream has come true for Bobby and Elliott Davenport.
The founders of the Lula Lake Land Trust are teaming up with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to manage the land trust and a new 5.1-mile trail corridor connecting Cloudland Canyon State Park with Lula Lake.
"Now we can get on with a fantastic partnership that was meant to be," Bobby Davenport said. "Together we are a lot greater than the sum of the parts."
The partnership agreement, which was formalized in March, means the public will have more access to the protected Rock Creek watershed property, including Lula Lake and Lula Falls.
Currently, the land trust is open sporadically, but with help from the Department of Natural Resources, the property will be open more often, which is the point of preserving it, officials said.
"All of a sudden, it will be open year round to the public," Elliott Davenport said. "We want there to be people on site and using it."
Partnering with other organizations is not new to land trust officials, who have been working with the Georgia Land Trust and Walker County leaders to build the trail corridor.
ON THE WEB
For more information about the Lula Lake Land Trust visit http://www.lulalake.com/.
The first phase of trails is finished and will open this summer.
When complete, the trail connector will run from the Nickajack Road trail head, through land trust and private property and across Highway 157 where it links to Cloudland Canyon State Park.
"Walker County is a good area for a trail system," Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell said, because many area residents already come to the Northwest Georgia county for outdoor recreation.
The public-private partnerships are essential to allowing public access to the land officials have worked hard to protect.
Elliott Davenport said his organization could purchase the land, but did not have the resources to manage details such as safety and garbage pickup. He said the county also will help police and clean the land.
"We build the trails and DNR manages the trails," he said. "They will patrol. It will be transparent to the user that it is the Lula Lake Land Trust, but DNR will have a physical presence."
Georgia Land Trust officials said the trails will not disturb the area's natural value and will add to the quality of life in Northwest Georgia.
In addition to achieving a personal dream, Bobby Davenport said he thinks his late father would be proud of the partnership.
Just before his death on Super Bowl Sunday in 1994, Robert M. Davenport made the decision to preserve Lula Lake and the surrounding area.
One of three sons of a Krystal restaurants founder, he had spent his professional life developing property for real estate. For decades, though, he bought up land around Lula Lake for protection. When he died, he left about 1,250 acres.
"That has grown to collectively about 9,000 acres since his death," Elliott Davenport said.
"He would have loved it," Bobby Davenport said. "The only thing that makes us sad is that he is not here to see it."