In this post I am going to tell a story about a place dear to my heart. It is a story about awakening, learning just how much you love a place that helped you become who you are. The place is the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area near Atlanta, Georgia. The story of where I realized my love for the hooch occurred hundreds of miles away on the precarious shores of the Chesapeake Bay.
As I was attending the Listening session for America’s Great Outdoors initiative in Annapolis, Maryland I was asked an interesting question in a breakout session. I was the youngest person in the room surrounded by accomplished conservationists and the undersecretary of the Agriculture Department for the Obama administration. I felt completely out of my league.
I was asked by an environmental professional from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, “where did you learn to become so passionate about conservation and environmental issues, and how do we get young people to care about these issues?”
The question caught me off guard. I scratched my head searching for an answer, “Well, my father is a photographer and as a child I traveled to many natural places with him. When I was in high school I frequented the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area just minutes from my home at Medlock Bridge. I used the quiet of the river as a place to seek solace, concentrate on homework, or just escape the pressures of teenage life.”
I continued, “perhaps it is time our education system incorporated experiential learning into the curriculum. America’s children play more video games, watch more TV, and spend more time on the computer than ever before. Children these days have limited contact with the natural world. The less time children spend outside, the harder it will be for people like us to convince society in the future that all these national parks and public lands are worthy public goods.”
The man turned to the undersecretary and said, “Sir, it is clear that more funds need to be directed towards buying land that is closer to major metropolitan centers. These areas of close-to-home recreation are where families come to teach their children to love the outdoors, clearly we need more.”
The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (NRA) offers local Atlanta residents close-to-home recreation. The NRA covers 48 miles of the Chattahoochee River in metropolitan Atlanta. If you haven’t had a chance to visit the NRA I suggest you head on out! Activities include: boating, hiking, fishing, bird watching, rock climbing (Island Ford Unit), and much more.
Although made up of many sites, the Medlock Bridge Unit is a treasure that I hold dear to my heart. It is the place where I first learned to embrace all the gifts that nature and a river can give and for that I am grateful.
- Jeremy Cherson
Jeremy Cherson is an Environmental Policy student at American University and an intern at The Wilderness Society. He is from Norcross, Georgia and enjoys hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, and playing several instruments. He is a contributor every Tuesday.