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Rutland honored with bench for Newton Trails advocacy
Bob Rutland
Robert J. "Bob" Rutland, right, and his daughter Shelly Hall, left, enjoy the bench honoring Bob’s contributions to Newton Trails Inc., and the development of multi-use trails in Newton County. (Special | Newton Trails)

COVINGTON, Ga. — For his many years of service and advocacy of multi-use trails across Newton County, resident Robert J. "Bob" Rutland was recently honored by Newton Trails with a trail bench placed along the Cricket Frog Trail. 

Rutland played an important role in revitalizing Newton Trails in the early 2000s, and was a member of the board of directors from 2004 to 2010, a news release stated.

During his time on the board, Newton Trails paved its first trails; the Oxford Trail and the walking trail at Yellow River Park in Porterdale. But what really drove Rutland and others at the time was the notion of converting the abandoned Central of Georgia railroad line from Porterdale to Newborn into a trail. For many years Rutland, Rob Fowler, David Waller, and other members of Newton Trails worked to make this happen.  

At one point Norfolk Southern Railway agreed to sell the rail line. The three of those gentlemen and others worked to raise the funds to buy it. They faced many frustrations and setbacks but they continued to press forward. Finally in 2016, Norfolk Southern agreed to lease 14.9 miles of the line to Newton Trails. That lease extends from Washington Street on the west side of Covington to Zeigler Road east of Mansfield. 

Today, thanks to investment and work by Newton Trails and its partners, including the city of Covington, the city of Mansfield, Newton County and the PATH Foundation, 12.5 miles of the leased right-of-way have been paved. But without Rutland and his contemporary’s groundwork, none of that would have been possible. 

Another project Rutland and others were passionate about was getting a pedestrian bridge over I-20 and a trail connecting Covington and Oxford. They have been working on this for years and that vision and effort continues. 

In the meantime, Rutland and others were able to leverage their connections with the Georgia Department of Transportation and get that agency to erect safety fencing on either side of the existing bridge. That fencing makes it safer for pedestrians and cyclists to cross the bridge. 

Rutland regularly walks the Cricket Frog and other local trails.

When Newton Trails decided to honor Rutland with a bench, it asked him where he would like it located. He asked that it be placed near his church, First Baptist in Covington. And that is where it is, adjacent to the Cricket Frog Trail and immediately north of the Church. 

Newton Trails thanks and recognizes Rutland for his time, talent, and the manifold contributions he has made toward building a coherent trail network throughout Newton County.