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The Flint River Trails system and the impact it will have on Albany, Dougherty County and Southwest Georgia by Carlton Fletcher for The Albany Herald


Trails group: “We’re through talking” // July 21, 2018

Albany and Dougherty County government officials have over recent years been at odds over issues that affect both. And members of the community have often expressed their displeasure with both city and county groups.

But the feeling of unity, of commonality of purpose, was palpable at the downtown Convention and Visitors Bureau on Friday as some of the heaviest of heavy hitters from local government and of community stakeholders gathered to announce a five-year plan to build out the Flint River Trails system.

The group also announced the formation of a Friends of the Flint River Trails group that, according to Friends member and Dougherty County Attorney Spencer Lee, has established a goal of helping find the funding needed to accommodate the five-year build-out plan.

“This is not a pig in a poke anymore,” Lee said near the end of Friday’s meeting. “We’ve been talking about doing this for more than 20 years. We’re through talking. You can call this our jumping-off point.”

Among the presenters at Friday’s public announcement/news conference were Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas, Friends of the Flint River Trails President Lonnie Wormley, Albany/Dougherty Planning Services Director — and long-time trail advocate — Paul Forgey, South Georgia Rails to Trails President Bo Johnson, Albany City Manager Sharon Subadan, Albany State University interim President Marion Fedrick, Albany Area Chamber of Commerce President and University System Regent Barbara Rivera Holmes, interim County Administrator Mike McCoy, Dougherty County Engineer Jeremy Brown and Chehaw Executive Director Don Meeks.

Each spoke of specific elements of the trail system and the effect it will have on the community and the region.

“This is a puzzle that has many parts and has required time, planning and resources to make it come together,” Hubbard said. “We are here today because many people have worked to bring these parts together to benefit the future of our city, our county and our region.”

Cohilas too spoke of the unity that had been required for the Flint River Trails picture to come into focus.

“Too long our community has lived divided,” Cohilas said. “I’m proud today to be a part of a plan that literally connects us. I’m proud that this plan takes us through areas that had become blighted and areas that were devastated by natural disasters. This truly is a project for all of Albany and Dougherty County.”

Over the course of the event, presenters outlined the disparate elements of the trail system that, when completed, will stretch from Radium Springs and Putney in southern Dougherty County to Chehaw park at the northern end of the county. The trail system, whose hub sits downtown and extends in all directions, will encompass waterways, various parks in the community, Albany State University, the Paul Eames Sports Complex, Chehaw, health care facilities in Albany and Lee County, and stretch westward from downtown Albany to Sasser, 13.6 miles away.

In all, the trail system’s nine segments will incorporate all or parts of 1,560 acres of greenspace along the Flint River; walking trails along land that once was the Radium Springs Golf Course; and the 13-plus-mile rail trail that runs from downtown Albany, through Lee County, into Terrell County and finally terminates in Sasser. That small community has already secured a $100,000 grant to construct a trailhead at the terminus, and Dougherty County has been granted $200,000 for a similar structure at Radium Springs.

Johnson said, ironically, that South Georgia Rails to Trails was formed 20 years ago, in 1998, in an effort to make happen what is now taking place.

“I want to commend the leadership of the communities and agencies involved for having the vision to see the benefits this trail system will have for our entire community and region,” Johnson said. “Our trail emanates downtown, but it encompasses two neighboring counties in our MSA. And, I can tell you those folks are on board. The people in Sasser can’t wait to get started.

“You look at what just this one part of the trail encompasses: through the farmland of Terrell County, out to that Oakland development in Lee County that is exploding, past the new Lee hospital, bringing in Phoebe North and connecting to downtown. We with South Georgia Rails to Trails are quite proud to have gotten this conversation started. We think we’re kind of the catalysts for this, and we’re proud of that.”

Money, the assemblage agreed, will be the primary factor moving forward. In addition to the $300,000 in trailhead grants, the University System Board of Regents has pledged $750,000 as part of the $1.75 million project to connect Albany State with the trail system. Dougherty County has earmarked the other $1 million in SPLOST funds to complete that project.

The city of Albany, as part of its agreement in purchasing the Albany-to-Sasser rail trail for utility uses, will spend an as-yet undetermined sum to build a 12-foot-wide asphalt walking trail on the 13 miles of the railway. City officials estimated the cost of that trail at around a million dollars five years ago.

“Frankly, I think those estimates were low,” Subadan said Friday. “I’m reluctant right now to commit to a figure, and, of course, the talk of return-on-investment for utility uses covering the city’s cost of building the trail is based on long-term usage. But we feel that we have a fiscal plan in place to ensure that the city meets its commitment to build the trail.”

Fedrick said the ASU-to-downtown and ASU-to-Radium Springs segments of the trail system will at last allow for the long-term goal of connecting the university with other parts of the community.

“This is but one effort to make that happen, but it’s a big one,” the ASU president said. “I think all of us share the idea that we want our students to be part of this community, not just part of the college.”

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Flint River Trails System flows in all directions from downtown Albany hub: Albany officials believe trail system will provide economic development, qualify of life opportunities // July 22, 2018

Just as downtown Albany is considered the “hub” of an in-the-works city revitalization project, the downtown district is also the hub from which segments of the Flint River Trails System originate and extend into all parts of the community.

Downtown Albany already is home to the 2-mile-plus Riverwalk, which snakes alongside the Flint River to Cleve Cox Landing in the northern portion of the city. A project is in the planning stages currently to tie Albany State University southward to Radium Springs and northwestward to the city’s downtown district.

But perhaps the most compelling component of the 20-mile-plus Flint River Trails system is the Albany-to-Sasser rail trail project whose history dates back 20 years. The president of the South Georgia Rails to Trails Inc. organization spoke proudly of that history during a news conference held by stakeholders to announce plans to build out the trail system over a five-year period.

“We’re quite proud to have got this conversation started, and it’s a conversation that’s been going on now for more than 20 years,” Billups “Bo” Johnson said. “We’ve gone through a lot over those 20 years to get to this point, but I think we’re here now because of leadership that sees the benefits of this trail.”

The Rails to Trails group attempted to create a trail along the 13.6-mile rail bed that starts in downtown Albany and continues to the tiny Sasser community in Terrell County. Along the way, it runs through strategic segments of Albany, Dougherty, Lee and Terrell counties. Their talks, while generating often heated discussion in the community, got nowhere for years and became something of a dead issue.

But the concept of developing a trail along the rail bed resurfaced in 2014 when a new set of city leaders saw uses far beyond those proposed by the rails to trails group.

“One day, Col. Jim Taylor, who was city manager at the time, and Mr. Tom Berry, who was our interim utilities director, were discussing the future of our (city-owned) utilities,” Hubbard said. “Later, in September of 2014, Mr. Berry led a discussion of benefits that might come from that land along the trail. We all knew the possible health, social and economic development benefits of the trail, but we started talking about possible utilities benefits.”

“The City Commission gave Mr. Berry and Col. Taylor the go-ahead to continue that investigation and, in April of 2015, at their urging, the commission signed an agreement to purchase the rail trail property. As part of that agreement, South Georgia Rails to Trails would maintain and manage the property, and the city would build a 13-mile-long, 12-foot-wide asphalt walking, biking, hiking trail the length of the property.”

In making that agreement, the city paid $150,000 for the property and agreed to build the trail within five years, making the due date April of 2020. Early estimates were that the trail would cost around $1 million, but Berry told city commissioners that the city would easily make that money back in additional utilities revenue generated through access to the property.

Subadan, Albany’s current city manager, acknowledge that the city has laid gas and fiber lines along trail property, some of which is already bringing additional income to the city. Future growth along the trail, especially near the Oakland development in southern Lee County, is expected to offer additional utilities opportunities that would connect with the infrastructure now in place.

“What we like to say with that rail trail is there will be work underground and play aboveground,” Subadan said. “We’ve been able to bring new gas customers online already, and there is promise of future utilities growth. Certainly measuring return-on-investment (to recoup costs to build the trail) is a long-term thing. I believe early estimates of the cost of that trail were low, but the city has a plan in place that will ensure that we meet our commitment to build the trail.”

Once that trail stretches through Terrell and Lee counties and comes into Albany and Dougherty county, it will run adjacent to both the pending Lee County Medical Center and Phoebe North health care facilities, run near the Walmart and other shopping outlets on both the Lee and Dougherty sides of Ledo Road, connect with downtown Albany’s Tift Park and tie in with the Riverwalk near the Thronateeska Heritage Center.

“Certainly the utilities piece is important to the city’s future economic growth, but it can’t be overstated the other benefits that will come from the trail,” Subadan said. “From a quality-of-life standpoint, the potential is unlimited. There are the health benefits of being active along the trail, but there’s also the reality that the trail will bring people downtown, increase tourism, lead to more economic development along the trail and enhance Albany’s reputation as a great place to live, work, stay and play.”

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Friends of Flint River Trails organized: Group will work to secure funding, construction of trails // July 23, 2018

In action that mirrors that of the Friends of the Greenbelt Trail in Carrollton, recognized by many as the state’s “gold standard” for trail systems, officials in Albany and Dougherty County announced Friday at a news conference the official “coming out” of the Friends of the Flint River Trails.

The Friends of the Flint River Trail’s 13-member board will, according to some of those members, be advocates to secure funding and construction of the trail’s nine segments over the next five years.

“We’re here to secure the framework that will allow us to coordinate these projects,” Friends President Lonnie Wormley said at the news conference.

The genesis of the Friends group — which includes Wormley, vice president Rachelle Bitterman, secretary-treasurer Rachelle Beasley and members Chris Cohilas, Paul Forgey, Dorothy Hubbard, Marvin Laster, Spencer Lee, Michael McCoy, Michael Persley, Kevin Sproul, Sharon Subadan and Jacquelyn Teemer — came in 2017 when most of those members served as the implementation team for the Flint River Trails Master Plan.

It was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization to bridge the interest of the public and private sectors, generate public support and increase usage of the trail system.

“Look out that window there,” Lee said to the group gathered at the Front Street Convention and Visitors Bureau adjacent to the Flint. “Every community in this state would love to lasso that river and take it with them to their city.”

Under the Friends’ guidance, a plan is being developed to find funding for the trail system that will run the length of Dougherty County, north to south, and from downtown Albany westward through Lee County into Terrell County and to Sasser.

Some $300,000 in grant money has already been secured for the trail, while the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents has pledged $750,000 and the Dougherty County Commission $1 million to complete the segment of the trail that connects Albany State University with downtown Albany.

Asked about additional funding outside the public sector, Cohilas said the plan now in place will allow the Friends of the Flint River Trails to seek private funds.

“It’s important for the private sector to see the public sector, through the city and county governments, put a plan together,” Cohilas, the Dougherty County Commission’s chairman, said. “We’ve done that. As the various parts of the plan started coming together, there was a need for a master plan. The County Commission saw that need and agreed to finance that part of the system.

“To have a true public-private partnership, you have to demonstrate you have a plan and the capability of implementing that plan. We’re committed at some point in the process to asking the private sector to get involved.”

Hubbard, Albany’s mayor, noted another benefit of having a master plan in place and starting the process of building out sections of the trail.

“As you know, we’ve already secured two grants for trailheads,” Hubbard said. “As we move forward with the plan, there will be more grant opportunities.”

Chehaw park Executive Director Don Meeks noted that businessman Pace Burt, as an amenity for residents who have moved downtown to his Flats @ 249 development, has already put up seed money to develop a mountain bike trail on land between Chehaw and downtown Albany.

“There has been a desire to have a mountain bike trail, but there has always been a need for funding,” Meeks said. “Pace Burt came up with the seed money to make that happen. Now, our staff has developed a partnership with Pace to take on the task of building the mountain bike trail.

“So, there already is private funding that’s a part of this process.”

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Connectivity key word for ASU-downtown trail element // July 24, 2018

As he talked about the significance of the role Albany State University will play in development of the Flint River Trails, Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas noted how, over the years, tragedies involving ASU students being hit by vehicles while attempting to cross busy Oglethorpe Boulevard became all too common.

Development of the trail element that will connect Albany State’s East Campus with downtown Albany is, Cohilas noted, a vital step in not only fostering the “college town” culture long sought by school and community officials but also in ensuring the safety of college students at the university.

“The safety of our students is one more reason this partnership with the city, the county, Albany State and the University System of Georgia Board of Regents is a win-win-win all around,” Cohilas said.

ASU interim President Marion Fedrick and Regent Barbara Rivera Holmes, who is also the president of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, lauded the $1.75 million ASU-downtown connector project as vital to the continued growth of the university.

“As we continue to make changes at Albany State University that will allow our students to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world, it is vital that we continue the connectivity that allows our students to feel more like a part of this community, not just part of the college,” Fedrick said.

Holmes said the Board of Regents agreed to donate a significant sum to the trail project to enhance the quality of life of ASU students.

“For our students at Albany State and for the city of Albany, this is one more feather in our cap as we continue to work to grow and build a stronger community,” she said.

The Dougherty County Commission has earmarked $1 million in SPLOST funds that, with the $750,000 investment by the Board of Regents, will allow for completion of a 1.7-mile multiuse trail. The 12-foot-wide concrete trail is expected to run along the berm between the ASU campus and the Flint River and continue underneath both the Oglethorpe and Broad Avenue Memorial bridges. That element assures the safety that Cohilas spoke of.

After continuing under the bridges, the trail is projected to loop back up to Broad Avenue on the north side of the Memorial Bridge, providing students safe access not only to the downtown region that is currently under renovation, but also to the Riverwalk that will, eventually connect downtown — and Albany State — to Chehaw park.

“One of the regrets many of us have is the absence of a ‘college feel’ when it comes to Albany State’s relationship with the city of Albany and the rest of the community,” Cohilas said. “This connection, this joining of the ASU campus and the renovated downtown district, is the kind of thing that provides what’s long been a missing element.”

While the trail segment that connects Albany State with downtown Albany and points north and west is recognized as vital to the Flint River Trails system, ASU will also be connected to a highly regarded recreational element of the trail system to its south, the under-progress Radium Springs element.

Dougherty County Public Works employees have begun work on the 6 miles of trails in and around Radium Springs that will be part of the overall trail system. The project at Radium will encompass Radium Gardens and a planned natural disaster memorial, plus miles of interconnecting trails on property that once was the Radium Golf Course. Other amenities that will be a part of the Radium Springs portion of the trail include an observation deck that looks out on the Flint River and a trailhead along the area that was the site of the golf course’s clubhouse.

“We are fortunate that former ASU President Art Dunning and now Ms. Fedrick worked with the Board of Regents to secure a large portion of the funding that has allowed us to move forward with the planning and engineering for the portion of the trail that will connect the campus with our downtown,” Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard said. “That’s one of the ways we will be able to finance the trail system, by being creative in our search for funding sources.”

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Radium Springs adds ‘natural wonder’ to trail system: Walking paths, observation deck, trailhead part of Radium trail amenities // July 25, 2018

As Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas reminded stakeholders and media representatives at a recent news conference, the devastation wrought by 2017 storms on Radium Springs has done little to diminish the natural beauty of the area.

That’s one of the primary reasons county officials, and the Flint River Trails implementation team, stressed the value of including Radium Springs in the trail system that stretches the north-south length of the county and westward from downtown Albany to Sasser in Terrell County.

“There’s a reason that place was referred to as one of the seven scenic natural wonders of Georgia,” Cohilas said. “And, yes, that whole area around Radium Springs was devastated by the Jan. 22 (2017) tornado. But I don’t look at that as an impediment. I see it as an opportunity.”

Dougherty County Engineer Jeremy Brown gave stakeholders an overview of the work being done in the Radium Springs area in the lead-up to the trails project that will connect Radium with Albany State University.

“We’ve already dug a retention pond out there that has a path around it, and we have some trails in place that people utilize now, so Radium is something of a destination already before all the pieces of the trail system are interconnected,” Brown said. “There are about six miles of hiking trails that will be located on property that once was the Radium Golf Course, and there will be a trailhead where the old clubhouse used to be.

“We’re already out there clearing land and working to develop the walking trails. There’s a lot of excitement about that project already. Pretty much any day you go out there, you’ll see work going on.”

Dougherty County applied for and was awarded a $200,000 Department of Natural Resources grant to develop the trailhead.

“The trail will bring people to Radium Gardens, which is already heavily utilized,” Cohilas added. “The county has been fortunate enough, through the efforts of our Greenspace Committee, to acquire a tremendous amount of greenspace property that we’re able to convert into beautiful segments of the trail.

“There is also a plan to build an observation deck at a strategic site that gives you a view of the Flint in both directions.”

The County Commission, which with the city of Albany and other stakeholders has been instrumental in development — and funding — of the trail master plan, also voted earlier this year to build a memorial adjacent to Radium Gardens recognizing the resiliency of the people of the county as they rebuilt after 500-year floods in 1994 and 1998 and the 2017 tornado that killed five people in the county.

On Tuesday afternoon, as county Public Works personnel worked on the Radium grounds, Suntania Livingston and her daughters — Diamond Bronner, 15, Destiny Bronner, 13, and Desire’ Livingston, 9, as well as her niece, Zion Cross, 7 — were making good use of the walking paths already in place.

“We live in Putney, and we utilize a lot of the parks around Albany,” Suntania Livingston said as she and her older daughters took a break from their walk/run progress along the paths. “I’m a big advocate of healthy living; I’ve lost 50 pounds since I’ve been exercising in our area parks.”

Livingston said she’s excited that officials have formalized plans to complete the trail system throughout the county.

“I’ve been reading about that,” she said. “I think it’s a beautiful thing. It’s something that all the people in Dougherty County can take advantage of. To think that we’ll have the opportunity to take advantage of a trail system that goes all throughout Albany and Dougherty county — to Albany state, here to Radium, to all of the parks even out to Chehaw and on to Sasser — that’s just a wonderful thing.”

Cohilas, too, lauded the “connectivity” of the trail plan as the Friends of the Flint River Trails, city and county governments, and private stakeholders work to finance and build out the trail system in five years.

“Too long, our community has been divided,” he said. “I’m proud to be a part of a plan that literally connects us as a community.”

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Chehaw one of the plums of Flint River Trails System: Master plan calls for connectivity to make Chehaw part of trail system // July 27, 2018

While each of the nine segments of the planned Flint River Trails System is crucial to the overall development in its own way, it’s the proposed connection to Chehaw park that is easily one of the plums of the trail master plan.

The segment is only a mile long, but it’s one of those golden miles that could open up all kinds of opportunities for the trail system.

“The question has always been, how do we extend the trail across (busy) Philema Road from Cleve Cox Landing (where the Flint Riverwalk terminates),” Friends of the Flint River Trails board member and Dougherty County Attorney Spencer Lee said. “Well, the folks who worked on the master plan (Kaizen Collaborative of Atlanta) came up with the solution. We don’t go across Philema, we go under it.”

The plan calls for the trail to continue under the bridge at the area where Lake Worth runs into the Flint River and loop back up to the north side of Philema. The trail will continue the mile or so to Chehaw, past apartment complexes and other businesses.

“Chehaw is adding more sites for RVs and campers, so there is going to be a bigger potential group that will want access to the Flint River Trails,” Lee said. “And these folks, the ones who camp out, are the kind of people who are active, who like to do things. The trail system is perfect for folks like that.”

Chehaw Executive Director Don Meeks agreed that the proposed trail plan will benefit the park.

“That’s an additional recreational piece that’s not only going to impact Chehaw in a positive way, it’s going to benefit the city and the county as well as the park,” Meeks said during a recent news conference to announce plans to finance and build out the trail in five years. “Connectivity to downtown has always been something that everyone saw as a big plus, but there was that hold-up at Philema. Now, I think we’ve worked through that.”

As questions circulated about private funding being utilized to offset the public and grant funding that has so far been used to finance the trail system, Meeks noted that private funding has already begun to have an impact on the trails.

“There has long been talk from off-road and mountain bike enthusiasts about having a trail for them as part of this overall system,” Meeks said. “We started mapping out a plan for a mountain bike trail, but just like everything else, you have to have money. Pace Burt is a supporter of the healthy lifestyle associated with these kinds of facilities, and he put up seed money for a trail that will be used as an additional amenity for residents of his downtown development.

“We have a group of volunteers — led by trail manager Josh Fix — who are working in partnership with Pace to create the mountain bike trail.”

Burt, the renowned developer whose work is lauded all over the Southeastern United States, decided to bring his talents to his hometown in an effort to kickstart development of Albany’s long-floundering Central Business District. He worked with the city of Albany to purchase the old Albany Heights building with the idea of bringing modern urban living downtown.

His 64-unit Flats @ 249 development has been a big hit, filling up quickly and generating a waiting list of interested tenants. Burt said he put up the funding to help develop a mountain bike trail because those types of amenities are the elements that bring the younger demographic to a downtown development.

“They’re making progress on the mountain bike trail,” Burt said Thursday. “It’s more of a hit-and-miss, volunteer thing right now, but I’m sure work will ramp up once the momentum continues to grow with the overall trail system.

“Off-road biking and trails are huge among active young people and adults, and I figured helping bring one to the planned trail system would be something that would help draw residents to our development. I’m not sure what’s happening with the (planned) canoe outfit, but I think the more amenities we provide, the more interest there’s going to be in downtown living and development.”

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Trail system will change face of Albany, Dougherty County: Finding funding sources crucual element of five-year Flint River Trails plan // July 28, 2018

There will always be those who, when evaluating the benefits of a community project, focus only on the bottom line: What’s it going to cost and where is the money coming from?

If the group that now makes up the Friends of the Flint River Trails, comprising Albany and Dougherty County officials and citizens who have been part of the local trail system’s implementation team, were to throw a single figure out on the amount it would take to complete the 20-plus miles of trails that are part of the system’s master plan, it would no doubt be staggering.

That’s why, Friends board member and long-time trail supporter Spencer Lee said Saturday, it’s important that citizens realize the development of the trail system is a process, one that may evolve even over the relatively short five-year period in which the Friends hope to secure funding for development of the trails.

“I believe the pricetag for the 12 1/2 miles of the Carrollton GreenBelt Trail was somewhere around $18 million,” Lee said. “I don’t think it would be wise to try and put a price like that on our system because we’re not planning just to build everything out right now without consideration of cost.

“I believe if we just went in and poured a bunch of concrete on the entire mileage we’ve designated as part of the Flint River Trails, it probably would come at a cost of around $18 million or more. But that’s not what we’re doing. We’ve devised a plan where we hope to find funding to allow us to have some part of the trails in the design stage and some in the construction stage going on at the same time from this point on.”

And while the Friends have boldly made public their plans to “complete” the trail system in five years, Lee said that completion does not at this time come close to covering every element of the trail system.

“There are elements — the one that connects Eames Park with downtown, for instance — that are part of our plan, but they are not on what I’ll call our ‘priority list’ right now,” Lee said. “In fact, there are various elements of the trail system that we may create as a ‘primitive trail’ initially and re-address at a later date, when it makes sense to do so. You look at that Broad Avenue-to-Eames Park element: a primitive trail might cost $500,000 where a concrete or even asphalt trail might cost more than $4 million.

“Priorities are going to change over the course of the five years that we’ve targeted to complete the trail system, and there are funding sources that may come available that allow us to alter our priorities. What we do hope is to design and develop what, if you want to call it that, the ‘skeleton’ of the system. And we’ll work off that as funding and opportunities become available.”

The primary elements of the trail system are well-documented and, most believe, are clear in the minds of the citizens who will utilize the trails. Less well-known, though, are several less-documented elements of the trail system.

For instance, the “downtown connector” segment of the trail, which will link the 13.6-mile Albany-to-Sasser rail trail with Albany’s downtown, could end up being the most utilized segment of the trail. Even for those who are less likely to walk, run, hike or bike on the longer segment of the trail, the downtown connector will touch both the Lee County Medical Center and the north and main campuses of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. It will pass by the Ledo Road commerce center that includes Walmart and a number of restaurants and other retail outlets.

The connector will make Tift Park part of the trail system and allow users to walk from the park to the downtown Thronateeska Heritage Center and, ultimately, connect to the Riverwalk that will eventually traverse the county in a north-south direction from Chehaw park to Radium Springs.

Flint Riverkeeper board member David Dixon has mapped out 11 sites where water enthusiasts will be able to put their craft into waterways along the trail system, and a number of parks — Eames, Robert Cross, Radium Boat Landing and Park, Mary Young Cummings, Charles Sherrod, Riverfront, Shackleford and Cox Landing — will all eventually be connected to the trail system.

There are other “primitive” elements of the system: mountain bike trails, equestrian trails, bike paths, water access, connectivity to the Old Dixie Highway, which would not be an actual element of the trail but would allow adventurous types to make a historic journey from Albany to Thomas County on a path that once was recognized as a major thoroughfare through the state.

Albany-Dougherty County Planning Services Director Paul Forgey, who has long been an advocate of a unified trail system in the community, said the benefits that the Flint River Trails could offer will dramatically alter the city, county and the region.

“The people of Albany and Dougherty County are going to be able to note some dramatic changes in the next few years, and they’ll start seeing them in the very short-term,” Forgey said. “It’s well-documented what health, economic development and quality-of-life benefits we’ll get from a well-planned trail system. But the benefits go beyond that. We’re talking about a level of connectivity like nothing that’s been seen around here in a long time.

“The Flint River Trails project is a terrific project. It’s going to forever change the face of Albany and Dougherty County.”

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*The above articles are written by Carlton Fletcher and originally appeared in The Albany Herald

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