Proposed pedestrian trail and conservation projects totaling $1.7 million in two Newton County locations have cleared a first hurdle toward federal funding.
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, announced Tuesday, July 20, he secured $4.9 million for eight community-funded projects in the 4th Congressional District in 2022 appropriations bills for three departments.
Among the eight projects is a $900,000 initiative in Oxford to protect the Dried Indian Creek corridor and build a trail; and an $800,000 multi-use trail along the side of Fairview Road in west Newton, Johnson said.
Inclusion in the Appropriations Committee draft bill is the first step in the funding process. The full Appropriations Committee, House of Representatives and Senate still must approve the requests, Johnson said.
“These projects are critical investments for Georgia 4th (Congressional) District,” said Johnson, a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Oxford city government requested $900,000 for its Dried Indian Creek Corridor Protection and Connection Initiative.
City officials said a planned 10- to 12-foot-wide multi-use trail will be 1.01 miles in length.
It will be built in the 100-year floodplain, cross 14 properties and include signage detailing the history of the creek and the surrounding area, city officials told Johnson.
“It will be a key segment in eventually providing connectivity to (Covington) and its trail system,” they told Johnson.
The project would protect the Dried Indian Creek corridor from further degradation through land donations and purchases, and conservation easement purchases, Johnson said.
It also would provide public access to the corridor via an ecologically-sensitive multi-use trail along the land acquired or secured through conservation easements, Johnson said.
Newton County government requested $800,000 for the Fairview Road Multi-Use Trail project.
It is planned as a 2.5-mile pedestrian/bicycle trail along the south side of Fairview Road in Newton County, according to the county Transportation Department which submitted the request.
Almost all of Fairview Road has no existing sidewalk. The proposed trail would connect Clements Middle and Fairview Elementary schools to communities along Fairview Road to provide a safe route for children to and from school, county officials told Johnson.
“Fairview Road has an existing 80-foot-wide right of way and can accommodate a path without the need for additional right of way acquisition,” officials told Johnson.
The trail would be an eight- to 10-foot-wide concrete trail and connect neighborhoods and communities between I-20 and the Rockdale County line.
The path is proposed to end at the Rockdale County line but could link in the future with a new multi-use trail under construction along Salem Road in Rockdale County, officials said.
District 3 Commissioner Alana Sanders represents the Fairview Road area on the Newton County Board of Commissioners.
She said residents have said parks and recreational opportunities “for the youth and active agers” are needed because residential development is taking over available green space.
“Once officially approved, this project will not only provide the activity needed but safety to a community because of the absence of sidewalks,” Sanders said. “This project will help us get the ball rolling and ease the minds of parents for those children who walk to school or want to ride their bikes.”
She said that “this is what I have been expressing to my colleagues on the board of commissioners and that we must listen to the taxpayers to assist with fulfilling their needs.”
Sanders said she told County Manager Lloyd Kerr the lack of sidewalks were a safety issue.
“There was a discussion of completing a mileage of sidewalks per year to correct this problem.,” Sanders said.
Sanders noted two schools operate on Fairview Road “and the priority should always be safety.”
“This can also start a partnership with the school system where we make sure that sidewalks exist around all public educational institutions in the county,” she said.
“The length of the trail, and that it can be used for bike riders and walkers while connecting to the neighboring county, gives the residents in both areas the opportunity to build a healthy relationship and possibly gain a workout buddy.”
Johnson said the funding for all the projects represents “investments in health care, education, infrastructure and our overall quality of life.”
“Anyone who says government doesn’t work for the people should feel confident in this process as we move forward,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you live or how much you make; we all benefit together.”