Technically, the trail section isn’t open to the public, yet.
But, on Saturday, Sept. 17, walkers can get a glimpse of the Elm Street to Eagle Drive section of the railroad corridor trail that will eventually traverse 14.9 miles through Newton County neighborhoods and cities.
“We’re just giving people a preview,” said Sara Vison, chair of Newton Trails. “We’re working on areas to clear vegetation. We’ll be installing signage.”
The upcoming Rail Trail First Walk in Covington begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17 at the Elm Street Trailhead just north of the public parking deck at First Baptist Church. The trail runs east behind the church, Legion Field and a variety of Covington neighborhoods, ending on Eagle Drive. The total walk is 4.2 miles. Two Rail Trails First Walks were held earlier in May and June on sections out towards Mansfield, she said.
“It’s great to [be able to] see a part of Covington most people have not seen walking on the rail corridor and how it connects different neighborhoods,” Vinson said. It’s a great way to get exercise and meet and talk with fellow community members.
“The great thing about a rail trail, unlike other trails in the area, is it’s mostly level. You don’t get steep up and downhills, because the train couldn’t handle it. They built the corridor so the trains didn’t have to work so hard, so that means we don’t have to work so hard when we’re out there,” she said.
Miles to go
The nonprofit organization signed a lease agreement with Norfolk Southern for the rail corridor that runs from Covington to Newborn. The agreement allows Newton Trails to develop the corridor as a trail and members of the nonprofit organization has been working to clear sections of the trail.
The number of miles that open will be determined by the repair of the trestle bridges, she said. “Each bridge has its particular issues, some more demanding than others. All will need some kind of decking and rail system. Some have a little erosion. Some of the pilings or rail ties may have had some deterioration,” she said. “Right now, we’d like to get estimates on what each bridge will cost to repair and go from there to see which will be restored first.”
The money for restorations and remaining trail clearing will need to come from the community, corporations and grants. So far, Newton Trails has raised money to pay for a structural engineer to assess the four trestle bridges the trail cross, as well as covering the costs associated with acquiring the corridor and with clearing the trails.
Newton Trails is asking for 2017 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds to open the Turkey Creek/Yellow River Trail, a multi-use trail running 3.5 miles from the Turner Lake Complex past the Newton County Career Academy and future Porter Hall Civic Center to Porterdale’s Main Street and Yellow River Park.
In the meantime, volunteers are needed to help clear overhanging branches, pick up litter and do other light grooming work on the trails during work sessions held the second Saturday of each month from 9-11 a.m.
“By working on a community project, you get a real sense of satisfaction having contributed to our community, to making your community better and meeting fellow community members,” she said. “We have a lot of people new to the community and this is a great way to get to know others. Even if you’ve been here a long time, it’s a great way to connect to community members.”
Name that trail
Currently, only a few sections of the trail are open. They are the 4.7 mile Charlie Elliott Multi-Use Trail in Mansfield; the Yellow River Trail in Porterdale; the 2.5 mile Eastside Trail and Turner Lake Trails in Covington; the Oxford Trail; and the Lake Varner trails.
And while there is no date when the entire trail will be opened, Newton Trails has opened a Rail Trail Naming page on its website at http://www.newtontrails.org.
The page offers a history of the railroad in the area, the native environment and geographic features, and other areas that can be used to inspire a trail name. There are also examples of other trail names, Vinson said, “to give some ideas.”
A forum has been opened on the page, allowing people to share their ideas for a trail name. Or, people can visit Newton Trails’ Facebook page and post their ideas for a name there. For more information, visit http://www.newtontrails.org or visit the Newton Trails Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/newtontrails.