Rocky Face Ridge Park has been years in the making

·3 min read

Jul. 23—You can't see seven states from the top of Rocky Face Ridge, as from Rock City, but if the weather cooperates, you can see south to Kennesaw Mountain, east to Fort Mountain and north to Lookout Mountain.

"The view really is spectacular," said former Whitfield County Board of Commissioners chairman Mike Babb, who helped assemble some 1,000 acres on and adjoining the ridge for the county while he was in office. That land is now Rocky Face Ridge Park, which contains a hiking trail to the top of the ridge and about 10 miles of mountain bike trails around the peak.

The trails have been open and in use since last spring. The park will hold its official grand opening Monday at 4:30 p.m.

"Rocky Face Ridge is special in so many ways," said current Board of Commissioners Chairman Jevin Jensen. "One of the largest county-managed parks in the state of Georgia, these nearly 1,000 acres of history and beauty will be preserved forever for the enjoyment of current and future generations of Whitfield County citizens. It is an amazing testimony to a vision that started over 20 years ago. A true partnership of local, state and federal governments with private citizens and foundations to make this day a reality. We look forward to thanking everyone who had a hand in creating this special park."

The entrance to the park is on Crow Valley Road.

The county acquired the land for the park and began planning for it while Babb was chairman, and he has remained active in its development even after leaving the board more than four years ago.

The county acquired a little more than 600 acres on the western side of the ridge during Babb's first tenure in office from 1997 to 2004.

"We used (federal) greenspace money," he said. "The city of Dalton contributed its greenspace money as well. We bought that property to preserve it as greenspace to help protect our watershed and to preserve the Civil War fortifications on the top of the ridge."

Numerous Civil War trenches and fortifications dot the sides of the mountain.

During Babb's second tenure as board chairman from 2009 to 2016, the county acquired the 301-acre Grant Farm, which abuts the acres the county already owned and was the site of two Civil War battles in 1864, and was also the site of Confederate encampments when the Confederate Army spent the winter of 1863-64 in Dalton following the Battle of Chattanooga. The farm is where the parking lot and trailheads are located.

That's when the idea of creating a park at the site really started coming together.

"We had so many different groups come together to acquire (the Grant Farm)," Babb said. "The county couldn't have done it without them."

Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) representatives helped design the mountain bike trails and provided $75,000 for their construction. The county received a $200,000 grant from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to build the trails, and it received a $77,000 grant from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund to help build a parking lot, pavilion and restrooms at the Grant Farm at the foot of the ridge.

Dalton Utilities provided some funding because the new use of the land helps preserve the watershed feeding nearby Haig Mill Lake by getting the 80 cows that had been on the farm off the property.

The National Park Service's American Battlefield Protection Program also provided funding, as did private groups and foundations such as the Lyndhurst Foundation in Chattanooga, the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia, the Riverview Foundation in Chattanooga and Save the Dalton Battlefields.

"We just acquired the land," Babb said. "It was the board that followed me, under Lynn Laughter, and the current board, under Jevin Jensen, that got the money and did the work to actually turn it into a park."

The county used $300,000 from its share of the four-year, $66 million 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) to install restrooms, pavilions, parking and signs.