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Praise for citys vision
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Dear Sirs: Kudos to the mayor and city council of Covington for being willing to inquire into a critical issue! It seems probable that sooner rather than later someone is going to own the 15 miles or so of the unused Norfolk-Southern railroad right of way which runs through Newton County.

The important question is who that someone will be. Will it be local governments and community interests, or will it be outside private interests?

Federal grants have apparently been awarded to help towards the purchase, and the county seemingly has some unused SPLOST money dedicated to the purchase of railroad right of way. I say "apparently," because no matter whom I ask, I don’t get the same answer.

According to newspaper reports, the mayor and city council of Covington have agreed to sit down with the railroad (along with the city attorney) and hash out what the facts really are. Kudos indeed!

If a purchase can be made by the Covington, Newton County, Newborn along with Porterdale and Oxford, the Water and Sewage Authority or any combination thereof, Newton County would be far the better for it.

The corridor could be used for the water lines from the Bear Creek reservoir at a cost of pennies on the dollar versus having to condemn private property for those same water lines. This reason alone justifies the purchase of the right of way.

We seem to be getting hung up on one particular use for the corridor, but the matter of where, when, and how to build trails, greenways, parks, civic centers, etc. can be determined later when the citizens of Newton County have thoughtfully considered it. Meanwhile, if we don’t act now, we may never have a chance to discuss the matter in civil tones. The potential infrastructure uses and strategic importance of controlling a swath of land through the middle of the county seem like good enough reasons for us to move toward a purchase of the right of way. Again, I use the word "seem" because until both sides are in discussion, no one really knows.

Let’s all sit down together and find out what the facts of this matter are. I do know one thing for certain; if we don’t move forward to secure the right of way and then determine the highest and best use for it, someone else will. Norfolk Southern has made it clear that if local governments don’t acquire this right-of-way, they will offer it to private interests. A few years ago, the City of Atlanta failed to act quickly to acquire an available railroad right-of-way near Piedmont Park, and it was purchased by a private developer. The city eventually was forced to buy the land at triple the original price in order to protect its neighborhoods from unwanted development.

We don’t want outsiders making choices for us. Let’s at least keep it "in house" and control our future.


Jonathan Paschal,

President, Smart Growth

Newton County