This is an opinion.
I stumbled onto a hopeful sign about Newton County’s future the other night, and it’s something that’s been working to help this county for quite some time already.
The volunteers with the nonprofit Newton Trails have been working for decades to create a series of trails countywide using natural or often abandoned, manmade resources already in place to create free recreation options at little to no cost to taxpayers — though local governments have used some sales tax and other public funds for some paving and other work.
Newton Trails' latest effort is completion of the Cricket Frog Trail on top of an old railroad line that runs east and west through central and east Newton County.
It recently received a $2,500 donation from the Covington Conyers Cycling Club to help it continue the development of the corridor.
Leaders of the nonprofit also announced they had raised enough funds to put a temporary cover on a bridge over East Bear Creek near Mansfield to open a formerly unusable part of the trail.
It also is working with the city of Covington to restore the historic wood trestle railroad bridge over Dried Indian Creek just north of downtown Covington.
Norfolk Southern discontinued service on the line in 2010 and sought to abandon the corridor. But Newton Trails filed with the national Surface Transportation Board to prevent the abandonment and signed a lease agreement with the railroad to develop and use the corridor as a public access trail, according to the website.
Newton County Trail-Path Foundation Inc. is a nonprofit incorporated in 1998 to promote and develop a countywide network of multi-use trails for pedestrians and bicyclists in Newton County.
It partners with local governments by raising private funds for trail planning, construction, and maintenance. It also offers public outreach and education “to inform citizens, businesses, and civic groups about the health, economic, and environmental benefits of a countywide trail system.”
In the past, it’s worked on such projects as development of trails to enhance the area along the Yellow River in the historic mill town of Porterdale.
Newton Trails completed a loop trail in 2006 along the river in Porterdale and has plans for an extended Yellow River Trail and Park.
It also opened a hard-surface segment along a route already begun by the city of Oxford and now runs in areas from West Clark Street, behind Old Church and to West Watson Street.
If anyone doubts the benefits of this recreation option to all Newton County residents, one needs only look to the northwest corner of metro Atlanta to see what Cricket Frog and other trails could help produce for this area.
The Path Foundation helped develop the Silver Comet Trail on top of an abandoned rail line in the 1990s and 2000s. It now extends from southern Cobb County north and east through Paulding and Polk counties to create a 65-mile continuous trail for walking and biking.
The hundreds of thousands of trail enthusiasts who use it annually drop some serious money in the cash registers of restaurants and retailers along the way from Smyrna to the Alabama state line.
A 2013 study by the Northwest Georgia Regional Planning Commission found the trail has about 390,000 trips by tourists that result in $20 million in new spending in the area.
It also brings an estimated $3.5 million annually in tax revenues to the state.
We’re lucky that this group of walking, running and biking enthusiasts are working on projects that could bring economics benefit the entire county for years to come.
Tom Spigolon is news editor of The News. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.