Georgia trail enthusiasts will flock to Columbus for annual spring summit

David Kemp, of Columbus, rides at Flat Rock Park, a local mountain biking location that will be featured at the Georgia Trail Summit.
David Kemp, of Columbus, rides at Flat Rock Park, a local mountain biking location that will be featured at the Georgia Trail Summit. Special to the Ledger-Enquirer

Plans to create 60 miles of alternative transportation paths in Columbus have finally gained momentum.

Now called the Dragonfly network, half of the project is expected to be completed this summer, linking the Fall Line Trace to the Chattahoochee RiverWalk.

That’s obviously a big deal to trail professionals and enthusiasts who will flock to the city this spring for the fourth annual Georgia Trail Summit. The event, which will be held April 20 to 22 at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center, is expected to draw about 300 people from across the state. It will be held in Columbus for the first time.

“Now in its fourth year, the Georgia Trail Summit brings Georgia’s growing trail community together in Columbus where an impressive 35-mile regional trail network is taking shape,” according to a news release issued by the organization. “In time, it will span 60 miles of paved trails.”

Tracie Sanchez, Georgia Trail Summit director, said cities built trails in independent silos just five years ago. Now, through the summit, they are collaborating and amplifying the health, transportation and economic benefits that trails provide.

“We see a positive trend emerging in the southeast with regional trail networks designed to connect cities to each other and to places people want to go,” she said.

In addition to Dragonfly Trail, other projects that will be highlighted during the summit include: The 750-mile Red Rock Ridge & Valley Trail System near Birmingham and the Highlands to Islands Trail in Gainesville. All will be discussed along with 27 other presentations on how to plan, fund, build and manage new and existing trails, according to the release.

On Earth Day, observed April 22, participants will attend 12 mobile workshops that will focus on paddling in the river, urban hiking, mountain biking, heritage/cultural trails and geocaching. The summit also will include cycling tours along the Riverwalk and Dragonfly Trail to highlight history and how the amenities were built.

Julio Portillo is regional bicycle and pedestrian planner for the River Valley Regional Commission, as well as chair of the summit’s local host committee. Portillo said he attended the Georgia Trail Summit in other cities the past four years, and he suggested that the group come to Columbus.

“We have the largest urban whitewater trail, which is the Chattahoochee River,” he said. “We have Flat Rock Park, the RiverWalk, the Dragonfly Trail. We just have a variety of trails that cater to mountain bikers, hikers, road riders. And so I thought what better place to have it than Columbus.”

Local partners for the event include the River Valley Regional Commission, Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau, Friends of the Dragonfly Trail, Chattahoochee Valley Area Southern Off Road Bicycle Association, Trees Columbus, Ride on Bikes, Uptown Inc., Whitewater Express, Columbus State University, Outside World Columbus, Big Dog Running Co., Columbus Planning Department, Columbus Police Department Bicycle Unit and Bicycle Columbus.

Registration is $100 and includes several meals and networking parties, according to the release.

Portillo said the summit will help boost the local economy and bring expertise to the area.

“Now, we’ll have some of the best educators in terms of trail planning, trail funding, trail management, and trail development that we can offer to our locals,” he said, “especially our local parks department, our planning department, and those government officials that work closely on those projects.”

To view program and register online, go to www.georgiatrailsummit.com.

Alva James-Johnson: 706-571-8521, @amjreporter