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New Developments for Yahoola Creek Reservoir: a Beach, Restrooms, and a Zipline?


DAHLONEGA- Lumpkin county residents and visitors will get to experience improvements to the community’s existing recreational amenities as Lumpkin County Government and partner agencies begin the implementation of the Yahoola Creek Reservoir Master Plan.


The development of the master plan began in 2019. Lose Design and the Yahoola Creek Reservoir Committee hosted a series of public input open house sessions and conducted research to provide the board of commissioners insight and recommendations on how to put various aspects of public input and civic goals into action.


The final draft of the Yahoola Creek Reservoir Master Plan was approved by the board of commissioners on Jan. 5, 2021. The Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners identified the top two priorities for year 2021 as doing maintenance on the existing 3.1 mile hiking trail around the property and partnering with the City of Dahlonega to improve the amenities at the roadside park, and to include constructing a restroom facility.


The trail maintenance kicked off April 18, where Yahoola Outdoor President Tom Lamb provided volunteers and staff a basic overview on trail maintenance and construction. The group is planning another volunteer workday May 23, and plans to host National Trail Day in June.


The Lumpkin County Government Engineer is currently working on a site plan for a restroom facility to be presented to the commissioners for consideration later this year. There are grant funding opportunities Lumpkin County Government will pursue to help fund the construction of the facility.


Executive Director of the Development Authority of Lumpkin County Rebecca Mincey said, “the purpose of the plan is to assist the Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners in planning for future development and improvements to recreation, greenspace, and trails within the reservoir property.”

Betsy Wilcauskas, a junior studying supply chain management and paralegal studies, says the reservoir is close to UNG and makes Dahlonega a unique location for students to hang out.

“After looking at the master plan, I’m really looking forward to the potential for a water recreation area. I love to go kayaking and tubing.”

Based upon Lumpkin County’s population growth and economic development evaluations from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, the population is predicted to reach 38,311 by 2030. Improving upon and adding to the recreation opportunities available at the Yahoola Creek Reservoir, as outlined in the master plan, will be a great benefit as the community continues to grow over this next decade.

“I’m looking forward to the trail connection between the reservoir and Yahoola Creek Park because I also spend a lot of time studying there.” – Betsy Wilcauskas

Board of Commissioners Chairman Chris Dockery said, “I think these developments and updates to the trail will make the reservoir more interesting, accessible, and engaging for everyone. We want everyone to utilize the reservoir.”

The 19 different sections of the master plan document encompass a broad collection of possibilities that could eventually be fulfilled, including a lodge and conference center, amphitheater, welcome center, RV campsites, zip line facilities, roadside park, mountain bike trailhead, and other trails. These recommendations amount to a total cost of $140,437,440 and would be established in phases. These phases will be developed in partnership with other public and private entities.


“I was the sole commissioner when the property was purchased… and our goal was to preserve the property before a residential developer bought it. Twenty-one years ago, the construction of the reservoir had just begun,” said State Senator Steve Gooch, who is also the Chairman of the Yahoola Creek Reservoir Property Study Committee.


“There are many possibilities for development [at the Yahoola Creek Reservoir]. I’ve advocated for preserving the reservoir since its creation and I think the master plan will increase its value to Lumpkin county.”- State Senator Steve Gooch


The Yahoola Creek Reservoir is the City of Dahlonega’s water source and as a result, activities such as swimming, wading, or operating gasoline powered watercraft are prohibited. Senator Gooch said, “We are very sensitive to the needs of protecting that water quality.”


The Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners are set on two priorities of the master plan thus far: refine the existing 3.1 mile hiking trail and update the amenities at the parking areas. However, receiving public input was and still is crucial to the Yahoola Creek Reservoir Property Study Committee.


Over 1,500 Lumpkin county residents and users of the property participated in open houses, interviews, surveys, and focus groups. Mincey said, “Gathering public input is a vital part of the planning process, and I was pleased with the number of people that took advantage of this opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas.”


According to the master plan document, 88% of the community supports improvements to trails, existing facilities, and amenities.


Based on community input (page 9) the top priorities that the majority of participants would like to see are as follows:

  • A trailhead and restroom
  • Amphitheater
  • Canoeing and Kayaking
  • Nature Trails
  • Downtown Connection


In reference, the prioritized uses of funding are as follows:

  • Passive Recreation
  • Specialized/ Support Facilities
  • Water Recreation
  • Cultural/ Environmental Facilities
  • Adventure/ Outdoor Recreation
  • Overnight Facilities


With summer just around the corner, updates to the 200 acres of property surrounding the reservoir will be a topic of interest for Lumpkin County residents. The master plan will be an asset for the leadership of Lumpkin County to reference to ensure the Yahoola Creek Reservoir property remains a popular location for families and hikers.

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New Developments for Yahoola Creek Reservoir: a Beach, Restrooms, and a Zipline?