$2.5 million bike trail proposed
By Whitney Skeeters
Local biking and jogging enthusiasts are rallying together to support a Rails-to-Trails movement in Morgan and surrounding counties.
At an advisory council meeting for the parks and recreation in Oconee County held Thursday, October 23, roughly 50 people attended to show enthusiasm for the creation of a safe, new refuge for cyclists and other outdoor adventurers.
Although the meeting was held primarily to discuss the construction of a Greenway in Oconee, many attendees expressed interest in investing in a Rail-to-Trails Conservancy project.
Rails-to-Trails is a non-profit organization that works with communities to preserve unused rail corridors by transforming them into trails.
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy opened its doors in February of 1986 and has so far built 14,000 miles of trails.
Rails-to-Trails supporters are looking at the 22 miles of Norfolk Southern tracks that run from Watkinsville to Madison, parts of which have not been used since the 1980s.
According to Scott Nichols, a real estate agent from Athens and one of the key organizers of the movement, Rails-to-Trails is about a one- to two-year project.
Construction would cost around $2.5 million, which could be paid for through grant money on both the state and federal level, using a SPLOST option, and money raised through donations.
Nichols said that organizers are facing two big hurdles at this point: getting completely organized so they can formally go to the railroad and make a proposal, and getting the three counties that would be involved - Morgan, Oconee, and Greene - on board to do this project together.
One area in which they are having no problem in is community support. Nichols has already built an email list serve to over 300 people interested in a Rails-to-Trails effort.
He is looking for a group to serve as a catalyst in Morgan County, whether it be a cycling group or neighborhood group, to help circulate interest.
Nichols welcomes anyone with questions to please e-mail him at email@example.com.