I’d been looking for an opportunity to head down to The Pocket to photograph the the leaves of Aplectrum hyemale, which are withered or entirely gone by bloom time in early May. Sunday was a beautiful day, so I headed out after our family lunch for the 20-mile drive. While I was a couple of months late for fresh leaves, it was still a trip of discovery – I discovered that the Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area is now a fee area.
This wasn’t a complete surprise; nor is it entirely a disappointment for me. I’d read and heard rumbling about this for a few months. As everyone knows, governmental (and most personal) budgets are strained, and monitoring and road maintenance expenses for this very large wildlife management area continue to rise. As I understand it, most of the funding for these areas has come from hunting and fishing licenses. The folks who hunt and fish were saying, with some justification, “Why should the non-hunters get to use these areas without sharing in their cost?” While arguably hunting and fishing on these properties is more “expensive” than wandering around taking photographs of wildflowers, road, parking area, and trail maintenance is still an expense, and I have to agree that those of us that use the facilities should help pay the costs.
Another advantage of this fee decision is that it may lead to a lower impact on some sensitive areas. There will likely be fewer visitors to areas such as The Pocket, fewer feet trampling on some of the sensitive areas, and certainly fewer cars impacting some difficult-to-maintain roads.
My personal preference was that the high-use parking (The Pocket, several spelunking areas, Rocktown) and camping areas be brought into the state park system, with fee collection handled similarly to the remote parking areas in state parks, requiring a fee receipt or a Georgia Park Pass to be displayed, but continuing to allow non-fee access for driving through WMA and roadside parking in some of the low-use areas. That would allow those of us who purchase a Georgia Park Pass to be able to visit the state parks as well as the Wildlife Management Areas, all for the $50 cost of the state park pass.
That is moot, however, as the fee structure has now been determined. If you are ages 16 to 64 and planning on visiting The Pocket at Pigeon Mountain or the other excellent wildflower sites on Pigeon Mountain, or for that matter if you are planning on enjoying any of the great recreational opportunities on Pigeon Mountain, you’ll need to make sure that you have one of the several fees paid and are carrying your license. Maureen from Alabama pointed out in her comment below that those age 15 or younger, and those 65 and older are not required to obtain a license.
While this is not an exhaustive list of the options, these are noteworthy:
- A 3-day hunting or fishing license – $3.50
- Individual 3-day Georgia Outdoor Recreational Pass (GORP) – $3.50
- Individual annual GORP – $19
- Small Group (up to 8 people in a single vehicle) 3-day GORP – $10
- Small Group Annual GORP – $35
I chose the Small Group Annual GORP because I make many trips a year into the WMA, and I am frequently joined by my wife and grandchildren. The 3-day Small Group GORP may make sense for those folks who visit with groups during the wildflower season. These licenses can be purchased online at georgiawildlife.com, be aware that there is a $2.50 “convenience fee” added to the license fee for online purchases. If you have a larger group going to visit The Pocket, you can discuss access options with the Regional Game Management office.
Oh, as for the Aplectrum hyemale that I went to check on –