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Outdoors enthusiasts who enjoy using the trails on Pigeon Mountain have a small group of volunteers to thank for spending hundreds of hours maintaining and improving the 70-plus miles of trails.

That group is the Backcountry Horsemen of Northwest Georgia, which for more than a decade has worked once a month to clear the trails at Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area for the many rock climbers, cavers, hikers, hunters and others who use what they call "the jewel of Walker County."

Recently the group set its sights on improving the primitive campsites on the mountain, with plans to add fire rings and picnic tables to the Old Sawmill Campground and at the new horse trailer and RV campground nearby.

They also contacted state and county officials about making improvements to the sole road used to access the wildlife management area, Rocky Lane, which contains old pieces of pavement that make the 7-mile drive to the campsite a very bumpy ride in a horse trailer.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, which manages the property, provided a temporary fix by adding 400 pounds of gravel to smooth out a 4-mile portion of the road, said Carol Cross, the horsemen's trail access chair.

A permanent solution is in the works that will involve removing the pavement and making it an entirely gravel road that can be more easily maintained, said Susan Van Apeldoorn, president of the horsemen's group.

With the help of the Walker County Chamber of Commerce, the group was able to raise enough money to purchase seven picnic tables and get a dozen fire rings donated. Those tables and rings were installed by the state natural resources department.

"The chamber has been extremely supportive of our movement to improve the camping on Pigeon Mountain," Cross said, adding that the improved access and campsites help attract people to the area.

Now the chapter is fundraising to outfit the remaining campsites with fire rings and tables, as well as to continue their efforts to clear trail debris and make Crockford-Pigeon Mountain more attractive to visitors and local users.

The group is holding a turkey shoot fundraiser at Cedar Grove Community Center Saturday, Dec. 12, from 9 a.m. to noon. The cost is $5 per shot, and ammo and targets are provided.

Sponsorship opportunities are also available for people who want to contribute to the improvements. The cost is $200 to sponsor one fire pit and $1,200 to sponsor six pits, and $250 to sponsor one table frame and $2,000 to sponsor 10 table frames.

Cedar Grove Community Center is at 5395 West Cove Road in Chickamauga. Sponsorship checks made payable to BCHNWG can be mailed to P.O. Box 1011, Trenton, GA 30752.

For more information email mulesrcool@icloud.com.

Contact Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6508.

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