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Cave Spring banking financial future on recreation

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CAVE SPRING — City officials are hoping Cave Spring can become a hub for outdoor adventure activity in the region. Leaders of the Cave Spring Downtown Development Authority believe a byproduct of becoming a center for recreational activity will be an economic shot-in-the-arm.

The city is hosting Outdoor Adventure Day on April 1, seeking to draw people interested in hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking — shopping in local stores and eating in local restaurants.

Last year, Cave Spring hosted a similar event that was focused strictly on hiking enthusiasts, but made the decision to expand this year.

“Last year we had a hundred hikers. It usually grows and we’ve gotten a lot of response,” said Billy Wayne Abernathy, a member of the DDA board.

He said every time the city and DDA have scheduled an event, the downtown merchants have seen an impact from the crowds.

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All of the storefronts on the square in Cave Spring are now occupied and looking forward to a crowd for the Cave Spring Outdoor Adventure Day on April 1. (Doug Walker, RN-T)

Cave Spring Downtown Development Authority Chairman Rip Montgomery believes the enthusiasm for outdoor recreation has played a significant role in the renaissance of economic activity in the downtown square. “We have just had our last available store filled so there are no vacancies in town right now except for one that is off the square where Country Cousins used to be,” Montgomery said. “The enthusiasm in town is really good and people talk all the time about being so glad to see all of these stores filled.”

Cave Spring DDA Director Sandra Lindsey also credits the growth in interest in outdoor recreation in the Cave Spring area to the resurgence in retail activity.

Boutiques like Tara’s Treasures and Baker’s Boutique, Local Joe’s BBQ restaurant, J & J Pharmacy and yet another new business, which will be featured in Monday’s edition of the Roman Record, have all helped fill up the empty storefronts that dominated downtown Cave Spring for far too many years.

Lindsey said that perhaps the most promising aspect to the new growth in the Cave Spring retail sector is that most of the new business owners have actually been buying their buildings. “I think that’s huge. People want to come to Cave Spring and own property downtown,” Lindsey said.

“There are other vacant properties in Cave Spring, many of them owned by local families. We want to expand off the Square,” Lindsey said. “We want to expand to our other corridors. Maybe, if we could ever get the money, do some of the other historic buildings on the GSD campus, that would be huge, restoration and use of those buildings.”

April Fool’s Day Bike Rides are being organized by the Southern Bicycle League. They offer cyclists the opportunity to participate in 30-, 60- and 100-mile rides. Riders will be able to sign up on the day of the event from 1 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Victoria Seahorn, a ride director with the Southern Bicycle League based in Atlanta, said long-distance cyclists are more likely to spend extra time at a venue than a Saturday morning footrace participant. “Our motto is Fun, Fitness and Friendship,” said Seahorn.

“There’s nothing better at the end of a long day on the bike than hanging out with something to eat and maybe a beer and talking about your experience that day.”

Seahorn said it is difficult to predict how many riders would participate in the three rides in Cave Spring because many riders wait to register until a couple of days out from the event to get an idea of what the weather will be.

Seahorn said cyclists tend to fall into three different categories; younger ones who tend to hang around the large urban areas, racers and the more seasoned riders who like to go off and make a weekend of an event.

“They tend to want to see the sights, shop and bring home souvenirs,” Seahorn said of the seasoned riders. “That’s kind of what we expect in Cave Spring. It’s a great venue and we are planning big holiday events in Cave Spring for Halloween and Christmas.”

“I think once we get the trails coming this way, we’ll have even more people coming in hiking and biking rather just in their cars,” Montgomery said.

It seems parking is as big a problem in Cave Spring as it is in Rome.

J.C. Boehm, owner of the Tumlin House Bed & Breakfast, 38 Alabama St., said he is not aware of any specific reservations for the riders on Friday or Saturday night.

“I do have some groups (who ride the Silver Comet Trail) that come every year,” Boehm said. “There’s one group that rides all the way up from Atlanta and come up the old road from Cedartown. Others have vehicles with them, carrying tools or extra stuff in the event of breakdowns. So yes, there are a number of cycling groups that I regularly get.”

Hikers will have an opportunity to walk the Pinhoti Trail with shuttle service offered from Rolater Park to the Dead Goat gate south of Cave Spring.

Canoeing and kayaking will be done in the iconic pool in Rolater Park from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. A special course will be set up for paddlers to navigate, and there will be opportunities for beginners to take advantage of expert instruction.

Abernathy said the Georgia DNR has also done an early stocking of Cedar Creek, which will be open for fishing during the event.

Lunches will be served by Local Joe’s BBQ, 6 Broad St., in Cave Spring.

Lindsey is excited about the prospects for a large diverse crowd for Saturday’s event. “I think it’s going to grow because we’re including everything — hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking,” Lindsey said. “Any time we can bring a huge number of people into Cave Spring it’s not only good that they come here for the day and hopefully spend some money with our merchants but that they see Cave Spring, a lot of them for the first time, and they keep coming back,” Lindsey said.

The city, with assistance from a $70,000 grant from Northwest Georgia Regional Commission and Bike! Walk! Northwest Georgia, hired ALTA Planning+Design to perform a major study that focused on developing a route from Cave Spring to connect bikers with the Silver Comet Trail near Cedartown.

It identified several potential routes but nearly two years have passed since that report was completed in June 2015 and little has happened since then.

The city brought on Georgia and West, an engineering firm from Carrollton, to do a study that was attached to a $100,000 trail grant application to the Appalachian Regional Commission in the fall of 2016. The first phase of the project, covered in the Georgia and West study, would extend from Rolater Park south to the city limits.

Lindsey said officials in Cedartown and Polk County will have a lot of input into the final route because much of the trail connection would be located within their jurisdictions.

The city has filed at least two applications for grant funds to assist with the connection to the Silver Comet. One was filed with the Appalachian Regional Commission, the other a Georgia Recreational Trails grant through the Department of Natural Resources.

The Georgia DNR is reviewing 45 applications for its 2016 grant cycle with winners expected to be announced in April.

How big can the impact of an annual event like Outdoor Day be on Cave Spring? “The sky is the limit,” said Abernathy.

“The key to Cave Spring, as we see it, is feet on the street. The more people that we can get here, the better it’s going to make Cave Spring,” Montgomery said.