North Georgia Canopy Tours
5290 Harris Road, Lula
8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, beginning April 1, 2010
Story by Melissa Wineman
Gainesville Times, March 28th
Zipping through the trees while dangling from a thin metal cord is a wild ride, but you might just learn something while you’re up there, too.
“When you are in a true canopy tour, it’s not just a thrill ride,” co-owner Leah Watkins said. “We do not want to be an amusement park.”
North Georgia Canopy Tours, located on more than 100 acres near Lula, will take people gliding through the treetops of the forest on a series of zip lines connected by platforms built on trees.
“It’s high energy, lots of excitement,” Watkins said.
Watkins said part of the fun of the tour is getting to soar over hills and ponds and experience the wildlife of the area.
A number of rare plants and trees, including a mature yellow cucumber tree, live on the course. A large blue heron is a regular around the ponds and deer and rabbits are a common site. Watkins said she has even spotted a black bear on the property.
“You’re experiencing things in a different way,” Watkins said. “I didn’t realize how truly beautiful nature is.”
The new attraction is exciting for local officials, too.
“This is a totally new thing,” said Stacey Dickson, president of the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’re really excited about it.”
Currently, there is only one other facility like North Georgia Canopy Tours in the state, Banning Mills in Whitesburg.
Dickson said the two are different because Banning Mills uses more man-made structures, while North Georgia Canopy Tours is mostly set in trees.
“It’s a more organic experience, if you will,” Dickson said.
Dickson said he believes the unique attraction will bring many people to Hall County, which also will be a boost for surrounding businesses.
“They’ll be doing a lot of referrals to local businesses,” Dickson said.
Banning Mills draws a lot of corporate retreat groups and Dickson hopes the same will be true for North Georgia Canopy Tours.
Currently, Northeast Hall is relatively undeveloped. Dickson thinks more businesses may spring up as a result of the canopy tour.
“We’d love to see some thoughtful development that doesn’t disturb the natural beauty of the area,” Dickson said.
Lula Mayor Milton Turner said new developments may be a few years down the road, but for the time being, the canopy tour will be beneficial for the city.
“We’re glad to have them because that’s going to bring business into our downtown area,” Turner said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Assistant Hall County Administrator Phil Sutton said tourism is an important component of sales tax collection.
“We estimate about 40 percent of sales tax money comes from outside Hall County,” Sutton said.
Sales taxes account for a large percentage of revenue for local governments. The special purpose local option sales tax is a 1-cent sales tax that funds capital projects such as parks, public safety facilities, libraries and sewer.
The sales tax is collected from everyone who spends money in Hall County. County officials have placed an emphasis on tourism in recent years.
This month, the county was host to a major bass fishing tournament, the first for the newly completed Laurel Park mega boat ramp.
The American Bass Anglers Bassmaster Weekend Series was wildly successful, and officials hope the April 1 opening of North Georgia Canopy Tours will offer a similar boon to county coffers.
“More is better,” Sutton said. “We always welcome visitors.”
For more info, or to book your zip line adventure, visit their website at www.northgeorgiacanopytours.com