The public-private partnership that formed to purchase 14.9 miles of abandoned Norfolk Southern railroad track in Newton County continues to negotiate the creation of a contract, though officials expect the process will take several months.
Newborn Mayor Roger Sheridan, the partnership’s liaison with Norfolk Southern, said the two sides are still negotiating a contract and working to resolve legal issues.
The Newton Trails-PATH Foundation is accepting donations and has raised $14,000 to date to cover legal and other fees associated with investigating and negotiating a contract, said Newton Trails Chairman Maurice Carter.
The group is planning a fundraiser for the project, Harvest Picking at the Old Church, and all-day event, culminating with a 7 p.m. concert on Nov. 13 at Oxford’s Old Church. For more information, see newtontrails.org.
Recently, members from the partnership took a tour of the railroad on specially-equipped "Hi-Rail" SUVs that have rail wheels that can be lowered and raised, Carter said.
"It was every bit as scenic and beautiful as I thought it would be, and in better shape than I thought it would be," he said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Sheridan who also attended the tour said the bridges look to be in good shape and able to support a trail. He said if there were going to be supporting heavy equipment like rail cars they might need some repairs, but the weight of traversing pedestrians would be significantly less.
The partnership is composed of the municipalities of Mansfield, Newborn, Porterdale and Oxford and Newton Trails. The group hopes to raise money to meet the original $1.8 million asking price, but will be largely dependent on getting access to the more than $1 million in grants that have been appropriated by U.S. Congressman Jim Marshall’s (D-Macon) office.
Marshall’s Communication Director Doug Moore said his office is working with the group to transfer the funds, but he didn’t know for sure if or when it would happen. He said details still have to be worked out and Marshall has to wait until Congress passes it’s next spending bill to get the transfer approved, which may not be until next year.