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Dear Editor: I am deeply saddened by the Covington City Council decision not to pursue a grant to create a multi-use trail along the abandoned Norfolk Southern Railroad. One continuous complaint by Newton County and Covington officials is that Newton County residents go elsewhere to spend their money, robbing the city and county of sales tax dollars spent in neighboring counties. Well, the reason people go elsewhere is because our representatives keep passing up great opportunities, such as the trail system, that would bring in tourist dollars, encourage commercial development, and give people a reason to visit, shop, and dine in Covington / Newton County. The professional community planners from UGA and other resources the city and county have paid to help plan a better future have all recommended a trail system as something the area needs. And, most have specifically recommended a trail along the railroad corridor. Everyone understands budgets are tight, and going forward the city may not elect to develop a trail.

However, the grant was not a vote to spend money; it was a vote to seize opportunity for monetary assistance and keep open the option to pursue the trails later with grant money for a large portion of the expenses.

To Council Members Whatley and Goodman, thank you for using reason. Even if you might not support a trail in the future, there is no reason to close the door on the future now, when nothing in the grant requires you to use the money. To Council Members Dalton, Smith, Williams, and Franklin, I would like to know if you have ever visited any of the local PATH Foundation trails to see the positive impact on the community. People are out exercising, there is beautiful redevelopment of the areas around the trailheads, and subdivisions advertise - Move Here, Access to the Silver Comet Trail. Speak to police officers in the areas near the trails, and they are supportive of them. They will tell you crime is inevitable anywhere, but it does not happen on a trail more than anywhere else, and they say the trails are overall positive for their communities. People want to be a part of something that is healthy, clean, beautifies the town, and brings people closer together. Given the overwhelming positives associated with this opportunity, and the many city plans calling for a trail in this rail corridor, the people of Covington would really like to hear more than silence to explain your alternative vision for our future.