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Bernie Kuhajda, Andrée Herbert, John Dever and Charlotte Barron, from left, hike Friday after the opening of the Cloudland Connector trail.

RISING FAWN, Ga. - Patrick Johnson left Denver three years ago with his wife and two kids to start an organic farm on Lookout Mountain.

They were drawn here by the growing season, the scenic beauty and the opportunity for outdoor recreation, said Johnson, an avid mountain biker who grew up in Atlanta.

Johnson was among more than 100 people who gathered Friday morning at the grand opening ceremony for the Cloudland Connector Trail, a roughly 30-mile-long system of hiking, biking and horse-riding trails on Lookout Mountain that run from Nick-A-Jack Road to Cloudland Canyon State Park.

"The trail quality is incredible. It's second to none," said Johnson, who plans to take his kids mountain biking on a gentle, 1.5-mile loop trail that's part of the system.

Building the trail system was a 10-year volunteer effort supported by a "who's who" of the region's conservation community. For example, a newly constructed $55,000 bridge over Bear Creek was funded with grants from the Chattanooga-based Lyndhurst and Riverview foundations.

Its representatives were there for speeches followed by a cookout, along with officials from the state park system, other conservation groups, state and local government, and volunteers who helped do the trail work.

The trail system is the project of the Lula Lake Land Trust, which was established in 1994 in the will of Robert M. Davenport, whose family helped found the Krystal hamburger restaurant chain. The land trust has preserved nearly 10,000 acres in the Rock Creek and Bear Creek watersheds over the past two decades.

"We are incredibly grateful to everyone who contributed time and resources to making our Connector Trail vision a reality," land trust board chairman Brad Cobb said.

Charles Mahan, a Lookout Mountain resident who volunteers to work on trails in Cloudland Canyon State Park, predicts the newly completed connector trail will be popular.

"It's a beautiful trail. It runs along Bear Creek," Mahan said at Friday's ceremony. "I think this will be one of the favorites of people visiting the park."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at or or 423-757-6651.