"No Rails to Trails" signs are popping up across Newton County, as opponents of plans to purchase an out-of-use railroad line and convert it into a recreation trail renew their efforts.
Jack "Buddy" Morgan and other opponents purchased 150 of the signs and are placing them around the county in an effort to convince fellow residents that no group should pursue the purchase of a 14.9 mile portion of Norfolk Southern rail line.
"We’re just a group of concerned citizens. There are no leaders or anything, we’re just concerned with the purchase price of the railroad, even if it’s not purchased by the county," Morgan said.
A public-private partnership, consisting of the cities of Mansfield, Newborn, Oxford and Porterdale and the Newton Trails-Path Foundation, is negotiating with Norfolk Southern.
"Either way, it’s going to come back on the taxpayers of Newton County. During these economic times we want them to focus on priorities, to get back to basics, roads, bridges, schools, water and sewer and the sheriff’s office," Morgan said.
He said he and others have been placing the signs next to other political signs and providing them to property owners who request a sign.
"We’re about to run out of them. People are stopping us on roads and calling us, asking to bring signs down (to their place). We’re fixing to place another order (of 120 signs). We’re getting out to the western and northern parts of county, too. A lot of people thought this was a dead issue, but it’s coming back and will happen if we don’t speak out."
The railroad runs from Porterdale through Covington and southeast to Newborn, passing through many family homesteads. Morgan is one of the residents who owns property along the railroad and is concerned about a future trail reducing his privacy and increasing his liability. Other leading opponents include Mary Jane Dixon, Fred and Peggy Greer, Mike Lassiter and Freddie Neely.
Morgan said he and others are trying to research the issue surrounding the railroad purchase in more depth and he’s trying to bring Newton County Chairman Kathy Morgan to speak to the group, which meets at Starrsville United Methodist Church.
While he understands that the county needs more amenities, he said he doesn’t believe that the trail will be an economic development driver. Purchase proponents believe the trail would be a boost for tourism and help attract companies, by making the county more attractive overall.