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Column: Dirt roads aren’t near extinction yet
Johnny Vardeman

Of the hundreds of miles of Hall County roads, only 52.28 miles are unpaved.

Or, at least, those 52 miles are the ones Hall County maintains, usually with gravel. 

Gravel or not, they’re still looked on and called “dirt roads.” Their number has decreased from more than 100 miles two decades ago, although new roads, often built by private businesses or individuals, crop up as the county’s population increases.

Even before motor vehicles appeared on roads in the early 1900s, people have cried for ways to combat the mud in the wet months and the dust in the dry ones. Most who live on dirt roads want them paved. Private roads are turned over to local government, which can pave them to certain standards and maintain them.

People living on unpaved roads often petition the county to take them over. It’s surprising then when people oppose the paving of dirt roads, though some residents don’t want to donate right-of-way or fear higher taxes and more traffic.

That’s the case in Chatham, New York., near the state’s capital, Albany. Dirt road preservationists even formed a coalition to fortify their opposition to paving over unpaved roads. Having more dirt than paved roads provided a lot of charm and nostalgia to the community, they say. When roads are paved, more development usually follows, which means potential congestion and an end to the solitude of the countryside.

In a few other areas of the country, there has been resistance to paving over dirt roads, some of which have been there for decades, perhaps as far back as the 1800s.

Dirt road enthusiasts apparently can put up with the mud in winter and dust in the summer.

If there’s such a movement in Hall County or other parts of Northeast Georgia, it isn’t apparent. Most who live on unpaved roads would like to see them paved. Charm and nostalgia can travel only so far, especially if the route is dirt.

Hall County’s unpaved roads are scattered about the county. One of the longest and most picturesque is Baker Road between U.S. 129 South and Candler Road (Ga. 60). But only 1.63 miles remain gravel,

Part of Cagle Road in East Hall has more than a mile (1.27) still in dirt. It runs between Ga. 52 and Ga. 365.

E. Reed Road between Poplar Springs Road and Strickland Road in South Hall has 1.11 miles of gravel road. North Browning Bridge Road in East Hall has 1.01 miles unpaved from Clarks Bridge Road to Don Carter State Park.

There are short pieces of Hall County roads that remain gravel or dirt: Bell Drive .83 off McEver Road near Flowery Branch; Wayside Drive .03 off Patterson Drive, Allen Lane .84 between Hulsey Road and W. County Line Road near Gillsville and Wildwood Lane .04 off Wildwood Drive and Ga. 60, not to be confused with the paved Wildwood Circle off Limestone Parkway.

A mile of Conner Drive in North Hall between Old Dahlonega Highway and Claude Parks Road also is on the list of gravel roads.

One of the most colorfully and appropriately named dirt roads in Hall County is Homeplace Road, 1.04 miles between beautiful Skitts Mountain Drive and Mossy Creek State Park in North Hall, where Mossy Creek runs into the Chattahoochee River.

Only when motor vehicles began to ply the often impassable roads did the demand for some sort of paving increase. In the early 1900s into the’20s, and even today, road builders and governments experimented with various kinds of road improvements.

Many remember when any sizeable trip across the state meant at least a few miles of dirt roads even between major cities. Those were a pain, especially before vehicles came with air conditioning. You either had to suffocate with the windows up, or choke on the dust with them down.

Those who yearn for a dirt road experience have an abundance of opportunities in the North Georgia mountains, where Forest Service and other unpaved roads meander along streams and through the woods.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; 770-532-2326; or His column publishes weekly.