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Posted: Wednesday, January 3rd 2007 at 5:55am

Ga. DOT to restore nearly 500 communities erased from highway map

By The Associated Press
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT

Po Biddy Crossroads will be back on the map. So will Hopeulikit and Doctortown.

From Abbottsford to Zetella, the 488 communities wiped from this year's version of the state highway map will be restored, the Georgia Department of Transportation said Wednesday.

"These communities are as much a part of the fabric of our state as our major metropolitan areas," said Vicki Gavalas, the department's spokeswoman. "The department will provide the public with a map that not only reflects Georgia's economic evolution, but also the historical significance of its many communities."

The towns were erased from the map after the transportation department decided it wanted a clearer, more legible version of the map to hand out for free at visitors centers and tourism hotspots.

The move led to an outcry among some small-town officials, who said the erasure of places like Cloudland, Poetry Tulip and Chattoogaville were an insult to rural residents.

It also prompted a response from the highest reaches of state government. Gov. Sonny Perdue said in a letter to transportation officials released Wednesday that his office was deluged with calls from residents concerned about the cartographic confusion.

"I myself have heard firsthand from Georgians about their concerns regarding the economic and societal impact the state's actions will have on small communities," Perdue said in the letter, which urged the transportation board to reconsider the changes.

Carrie Hamblin, a transportation department spokeswoman, said the decision applies to both the large-print and regular text versions of the map. She said the maps are usually printed in the summer, but that the department is trying to get an earlier printing date.

Dennis Holt, who is leading a community effort to restore the name of western Georgia's Hickory Level, celebrated the decision.

"It's wonderful," he said. "It shouldn't have happened to begin with, but we're glad they put it back to how it should have been."

Mapmaking criteria vary by state, and a little housecleaning over time is not unusual. But other states said it is almost unheard of to see hundreds of communities given the boot in a single year. Even Rand McNally, which as North America's biggest commercial mapmaker sells its maps at gas stations and bookstores, said a change of just a dozen place names on its state maps is rare.

News of the cartographic change prompted a flood of map-related letters and phone calls to the governor's office, as well as a number of complaints from legislators, said Bert Brantley, Perdue's spokesman.

State Sen. Tim Golden, a Democrat who represents a swath of south Georgia with at least two towns missing from the map, was one of the lawmakers who said the towns should be restored.

"I think for both historical reasons and tourism, why not leave them on the map?" he said.

Gavalas, the transit department's spokeswoman, said she regrets that any rural residents feel slighted. "That certainly was not our intent," she said. "Indeed, our only intent was to make the official state map a more easily read resource."

Still, Holt said he's wary of another attempt to ax his town of 1,000 from the map again.

"We're glad that they've seen the light and put it back on there," he said. "Our concern is: Will they do this again? We'll be waiting, we'll be watching.

"We've been here 178 years. I've been here 30 of those. And we're not going anywhere."

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