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By: Robert Janis

Highland Park Resort

Georgia Resort Owner Has Off-Road Experience

Main building - note cool natural cedar posts cut on the property!
Main building - note cool natural cedar posts cut on the property!

One way off-road enthusiasts can be sure that a vacation resort properly caters to their needs is to learn that the owner of the resort has off-road experience himself.

Paul Wright is owner of the Highland Park Resort in Cedartown, Georgia located in the northwest Georgia mountains. He has been riding and racing motorcycles all of his life and has won national championships. He has worked in the motorcycle industry most of his life and currently is a KTM dealer selling racing motorcycles and ATVs. What makes this ideal is that as owner of the resort, it was Paul who constructed the 65 miles of trail open for ATV’ers as well as motorcyclists to use. The resort also includes a 1.1 miles motocross track; a 2.3 miles motocross track, 60-feet to 80-feet wide motocross track; and a peewee track for kids. ATV’ers can use all the trails designated for ATV use and the 1.1 mile motocross track and kids can ride ATVs on the peewee track.

The resort was open in October 2005. Back then, the resort park was basically all there was. “When we opened the park, it was just forest and a dirt road,” said Paul. “In the last four and a half years we have carved out and constructed everything here--all the parking areas, right of ways for power, phone lines and running water, a mini-sewage plant, the camping cabins and bathroom/shower house, and created all the tracks and trails.” His experience as an off-road rider helped him as he designed the trails and tracks. “I tried very hard to make things challenging and fun but not to the point of being unsafe or impossibly hard,” he said.

When Paul opened the Highland Park Resort, it appeared that it may not make it past the second day. “After we were open for two days, we were sued by local residents. Nothing happened, but the people suing us had page after page of what might happen. We got tied up in court for four months, and we were closed for that whole period of time. We went through some battles, but finally we won and re-opened; and we haven’t had any problems since.”

The resort has a superb safety record and has now won over most of the local residents. There are actually Highland Park Rangers who patrol the park with a radio system for communication. The Rangers know the area so they can quickly respond to a problem, and many have EMT experience so they can effectively deal with potential injuries on the trail. The resort employs eight people; and, as Paul said, each wears “a lot of hats.” “When we are not too busy, we go out and maintain a trail or work on a new trail,” he said.

The region which includes the resort is steeped in history. Known as Esom Hill, the area was used by bootleggers to make illegal whiskey. According to Paul, he has found 28 old moonshine stills while scouting and building trails. “They varied in age. Some were put out not too long ago. Some stills have barrels around the site, and you can see ax marks made by revenuers who came out to destroy them.”

Paul also commented that there used to be an Indian village on the property in the early to mid 1800s. “So there are all kinds of Indian relics around,” he said. “People are still finding arrowheads in our parking lot daily,” he quipped.

The area also once included a saw mill. “Lumber jacks went up the mountains with mule teams, cut down the trees and then dragged them down the mountain to the saw mill which was in the resort’s parking area,” Paul said.

When the owner of the saw mill died, a paper company purchased the property; and Paul bought it from them.

Early on the resort rented ATVs, but it does not do so now. “We did rent ATVs but the damage to them was sometimes extensive,” he explained. “After a while we determined that we would have to charge a large damage deposit to continue renting them, and the cost was too high for the average rider.”

As mentioned, Paul owns a motorsport dealership that is on the resort property. Called KTM World, it sells KTM motorcycles and ATVs. In fact, it is one of the country’s top KTM dealers for the sale of motorcycles and ATVs. Paul is currently considering a brand of ATVs to sell;and, if that happens, he may again rent ATVs. “We intend to become an ATV dealer for a particular brand. If we do that, it will be a very reliable brand that hopefully will stand up to rental use. We will keep a large inventory of parts so that we can maintain and repair them.”

The resort attracts a 50-50 mix of ATV’ers and motorcyclists during a year. “When it rains and things are a little muddy or slick, we have more ATVs than motorcycles. When it is dusty and dry, we have more motorcycles than ATVs,” said Paul.

Most of the people who come to the resort are within two and a half hours away. That includes Atlanta, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama; and Chattanooga, Tennessee. But they also attract people from Canada, Australia, Great Britain, and other parts of the world. Also, during the winter people come down from northern states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and New York when the trails there get snowed under; and no one can ride.

One of our bridges on the perimeter trail.
One of our bridges on the perimeter trail.

Although 99 percent of the activity at the resort is related to motorsports, there are other activities including mountain bike riding, hiking, nature photography, and camping.

The resort offers cabins that feature heating and air conditioning, ceiling fan, refrigerator, loft, microwave oven, bunk or queen size beds for a price of $59 a night. There are also campsites that can be had for only $5 a night. During the weekends and on busy holidays, the resort will grille a lunch that includes hot dogs for $1 and hamburgers for $2. The resort offers multi-day discounts as well as discounts for women and children, in fact children 8 years or younger stay for free. There is also a yearly membership and as a member you are permitted certain discounts. There is no night time entertainment. “We are more of a get-away in the woods,” said Paul. He also volunteered that he doesn’t want to give nearby residents a reason to complain so they keep things low key in the evenings.

Cedartown is only about seven to eight miles away. Although it is not a big town, it does have fast food restaurants, two Italian restaurants, three Mexican restaurants, some hotels, and pool halls. There is also a very old and unique movie theater there.

Paul said that the resort does offer guides who accompany riders. However, he also said that they are not really necessary. “Everything is very well signed and laid out and expertly mapped. Each trail is marked with a number and is rated for difficulty to ride.” He assures that no one can get lost on the trails. Trails are all one way and the main trail perimeter loop will bring you back to the parking lot.

Paul pointed out that the Highland Park Resort is still a work in progress. “There is a lot more land that is not yet being used,” he said. “We are still scouting and cutting more trails and will construct a third motocross track.” He is also considering holding racing events.

More can be found on the Highland Park Resort at its website: www.highlandparkresort.com and at a regional website called Georgia Off-Road www.georgiaoffroad.com.


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