Small, moneyless towns take note,
Create an attraction, a purpose, a redo.
Helen, GA went Alpine.
A few weeks ago, my extended family traveled from their homes across the South to Helen in northeast Georgia for a family reunion. My husband and I decided on the scenic route and went north on highway 441 and returned on US1. I had not traveled this way in many years.
The changes I saw were shocking. Never very prosperous, many little Georgia towns had sunk into dilapidation. Whole blocks of stores were closed. Even the fast food restaurants were empty. Trash littered the sidewalks and weeds grew in the cracks. The failing economy had done its work. Only a few towns looked normal. Then we reached Helen, our destination.
Naturally beautiful, Helen with 2000+ altitude is the doorway to the Appalachian mountains. In 1968, some townspeople had the idea to transform the town into an Alpine village to draw tourists and visitors. Since that time, downtown stores have all been renovated to create the look. In the beginning there were nine businesses, now there are over 150 shops and 30 factory outlets. The effort was successful and Helen lives and lives well. Most of the shops are owned by the people who run them. Anyone with a good idea can make it.
A Helen business complete with Alpine windmill.
Unicoi State Park is close to Helen and also draws visitors. It has a small lake for fishing and boating, several lodges with rooms to rent and cabins. There is also camping. Helen and Unicoi have helped each other gather visitors and be successful.
The lake at Unicoi State Park near Helen
The towns people in some of the falling down towns I saw on the way to Helen need to see what Helen has done and create their own miracle. Imagination and a few sponsors will help. It has taken more than 20 years for Helen to reach the place she has today. It is slow
progress, but any town can do it.
Wendy's in Helen has been done in the Alpine style.
This brochure shows the attitude and the ingenuity
of the people of Helen.
Helen web site, Helen Visitors/Convention site
Unicoi web site