Newton County trails supporters didn't want to resort to putting up road signs. They felt signs were simply visual clutter that did nothing to promote the dialogue needed for the community to make an informed decision regarding the Norfolk Southern railroad purchase and other trail projects.
"Unfortunately, little has happened to create a time or place for that dialog. And, it's grown increasingly clear too many local officials underestimate the broad public support that has long existed for a greenway trail system in Newton County," Chairman Maurice Carter recently wrote to members of Newton County Trails-Path Foundation.
"Recently, many supporters asked us to reconsider our position. You told us you feel frustrated, overlooked, and undervalued by elected leaders of the community. You said the negativity of seeing only what people are against was wearing on you, and you wanted to be counted among those with a positive vision standing for something," Carter continued.
"Fair enough. We heard you."
So, the Newton County landscape is about to become dotted with "I (heart) Trails" signs, as supporters seek a visual cue to stir dialogue. Newton Trails purchased 100 signs, Carter said.
Lee Meadors placed a sign in front of his real estate business on Emory Street because he loves to ride his bicycle and believes another path would be only a positive development for the county.
"It's hard to turn our heads on something that is so readily available. We will regret it if we let this (railroad corridor) opportunity get passed us," Meadors said Thursday. "I think a trail will be something the whole community will enjoy, whether its cyclists, walkers or a mama pushing her baby in a stroller."
To purchase a sign for $7.50, go to newtontrails.org and follow the appropriate links.
"We would have preferred our elected officials placed less stock in such symbols and put more credence in the extensive trail support documented in the county recreation, transportation, and comprehensive plans," Carter said.
"The signs are not a demand or a plea for any specific project or action. They are simply a reminder. As the "No Rails to Trails" group has said: "Priorities First." And, a careful examination of our county plans shows that trails and greenways have been a priority for Newton County residents for a very long time."