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Posted: August 2, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Yellow River trail moving forward

Newton County residents have heard a lot of discussion about trails recently, but sometimes lost in that discussion is the fact that two non-railroad related trails are continuing to move forward.

County Special Projects Coordinator Cheryl Delk held a public information open house Thursday evening to answer residents’ questions and concerns about the proposed Turkey Creek-Yellow River Multi-Use Trail; Delk said she expects construction to start in 2011.

The 3.8 mile long trail will start at Turner Lake Park, parallel Turkey Creek and the Yellow River, cross over the Yellow River south of Brown Bridge Road via a new bridge, pass near Newton High School and Porterdale and end at Porterdale’s Historic Depot. The trail will be 10-feet wide and will have fencing at many sections.

Originally, the trail was intended to be a 4.5 mile trail, costing $2.56 million; no updated cost has been given for the shorter trail. So far Newton County has collected $1.85 million, but only $421,050 is local money, with the rest coming from four different state and federal grants and earmarks.

The open house was held to answer questions and receive feedback about the proposed trail.

Oxford City Councilmember Hoyt Oliver has been a long-time supporter of the trails and said he uses the current trails in Oxford for walking and for walking his son’s dogs.

"It’s wonderful that they’re planning this segment. I’m glad to see all the people who use the current trails, people of all ethnicities and all ages," he said.

Oliver said much of the fear about negative consequences of trails is unfounded because studies show that trails are very safe and actually increase home values near the trail.

"People are getting a bit scared. People had the same reaction in Oxford

when the trails were proposed but there have been no negatives," Oliver said. "I think that people who commit crimes are going to be coming in on vehicles, not on bikes or by foot."

Fleeta Drive resident Thomas Buckner said he was concerned about safety and also about the cost of maintenance and liability if someone was to get hurt.

"We can’t afford the maintenance and security. If someone gets hurt, then people will start hollering," Buckner said. "Not to mention I don’t see many people using trails and sidewalks systems we have, like the one from the library to here. I walk it sometimes, but I hardly see anyone out there."

Mt. Zion Road resident Don Lewis said he was looking forward to an expanded trail system, because he would like to use trails for walking and bike riding, but there are no paths close to him.

Delk said the project has been in the planning stages more than five years and the most recent steps have been continued work on the construction documents, being drafted by Street Smarts, and work on the environmental impact documents by Edwards-Pitman Environmental.

Anyone who wants to view the project and comment on it can visit the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Web site at dot.state.ga.us. From there scroll over Information Center and then select Public Outreach on the dropdown menu that appears. Then select Newton County and Turkey Creek trail under the projects list.

Delk said the proposed trail from the Newton County Library to Eastside High School and the Alcovy River is even further along and will probably be underway early in 2010. She said the Yellow River trail is more complicated because of the care that has to be taken when constructing in a wetlands area and because of the bridge that must be constructed over the river.

Porterdale Mayor Bobby Hamby said the city’s public works department has already started clearing brush from the river banks near the end of the trail to allow residents more access to the river, in preparation for the trail.

Delk said the plan is for the Historic Depot to be turned into a welcome center with information, restrooms and possibly canoe rentals.

In related news, Conyers, Covington, Newton County and Rockdale County have jointly agreed to pursue another multi-use trail connecting the communities. The trail would fit into Newton County’s master plan and would ideally connect Olde Town Conyers, the Georgia International Horse Park, Oxford and Covington.

Delk said the combined master planning process would start soon and would cost around $10,000. Covington, Newton County, Main Street Covington and The Chamber would provide a combined $3,500, while Rockdale County and Conyers would cover the rest. Eventually, officials would like to see the Silver Comet Trail extend all the way to Covington.

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