Brighter days are ahead for the Len Foote Hike Inn, an environmentally sustainable wilderness lodge in the North Georgia mountains, thanks to a newly installed 53.72 kW solar photovoltaic array.
The “Above the Grid” solar project supplies nearly 70 percent of the inn’s electricity needs and will educate thousands of guests annually about the value of sustainable environmental practices.
Deep in the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest, the Hike Inn is a unit of the Georgia State Parks and is operated by the nonprofit Len Foote Hike, Inc. For 18 years the Hike Inn, accessible for its guests only by hiking five miles from a trailhead at Amicalola Falls State Park, has encouraged wilderness recreation and environmental education. Now, through support from a grant from All Points North Foundation (APNF) and a low-interest loan from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA), the Hike Inn is adding its most impactful sustainable system.
"By using the power of the sun to supply the majority of our electricity needs, we are demonstrating an economical way to limit the power we take from the grid," said Hike Inn Executive Director Eric Graves. "We are reducing our carbon footprint significantly and educating our guests and visitors about the importance of alternative energy."
"All Points North Foundation is focused on driving awareness, education, training and hands-on application of solar power as a practical and cost-efficient energy source," said Laura Staich, Executive Director of APNF. "The Hike Inn project puts the practical value of solar front and center by educating guests across the age spectrum about how they can conserve energy and lower their carbon footprint through sustainability practices such as solar energy."
Among the many sustainable systems already in use at the Hike Inn are:
- A solar thermal water heating system supplying hot water to the Hike Inn bathhouse and to the laundry facility.
- Composting toilets which save in excess of 200,000 gallons of water annually.
- A LEED gold-level architectural design which conserves energy and water while reducing emissions.
- A food composting system for food waste supplemented by vermiculture (earthworms).
"Georgia State Parks have long appreciated the nonprofit model at the Hike Inn," said Georgia’s Director of Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites Becky Kelley. "The Hike Inn is totally in line with our aim to provide recreation and environmental education. The new solar system is a huge leap forward for our mission."
Approximately 9,000 guests per year stay at the Hike Inn where amenities include rustic guest rooms, a bathhouse with solar-heated water for showers and sinks and a dining hall that serves dinner and breakfast. Each year, thousands of day hikers take a break for cold and hot beverages and a rest break before traveling on. Just one mile from the Approach Trail to Springer Mountain, the Hike Inn has a direct trail connection to the famous Appalachian Trail.
"A major project at the Hike Inn is the Outside School which brings young people and their leaders for an overnight wilderness experience," said Hike Inn Board President Richard Judy. "The new solar array supports our mission statement of protecting Georgia’s natural resources through education and recreation. We provide a diverse range of young people with a wilderness adventure that they may otherwise never experience. 'Above the Grid' teaches them a vivid lesson about the connection between sustainability and wilderness."
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