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Wait is finally over for trail spanning Victory Drive in Columbus

The Owen T. Ditchfield Bridge, part of the Follow Me Trail walking and cycling trail, will be dedicated Tuesday, Dec. 18, and 2 p.m. The bridge spans Victory Drive between Benning Road and Fort Benning Road.
The Owen T. Ditchfield Bridge, part of the Follow Me Trail walking and cycling trail, will be dedicated Tuesday, Dec. 18, and 2 p.m. The bridge spans Victory Drive between Benning Road and Fort Benning Road.

The wait is over for Columbus residents who have been concerned about delays, utility work and funding for the Follow Me Trail project over Victory Drive.

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, members of Columbus Council and residents are invited to a 2 p.m. Tuesday ceremony to recognize completion of the two-mile trail and name the Owen T. Ditchfield Bridge spanning the six-lane highway. The celebration marks the official opening of the multiuse, walking and cycling trail from Cusseta Road south to Eagles Trace Apartments on Torch Hill Road. It will serve as a major step toward connecting the south to the National Infantry Museum and the Chattahoochee Riverwalk.

The event is being held at Kellogg’s snacks plant at 3700 Victory Drive with an opportunity to honor the late Owen T. Ditchfield, a veteran with two tours of duty in Vietnam and one who was an advocate for the community. After serving in the infantry for 10 years and leaving the Army at Fort Benning, he taught school on post, served on the Muscogee County School Board and volunteered at the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center.

A resident of Oakland Park and president of the South Columbus Concerned Citizens, Ditchfield was always searching for ways to help make the community a better place to live, said Rick Jones, director of the Planning Department for the Columbus Consolidated Government.

“He was one of those guys who was pro south Columbus,” Jones said. “He sat on the school board because of his heart and his desire to see South Columbus a better place to live. We thought it would be fitting that we have something in his memory.”

Since ground was broken in 2015, the city has spent more than $3.5 million on the project. It includes $300,000 from the office of U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. and money from the Transportation Investment Act which was approved by voters in 2012.

The city had hoped to open another section of trail in the North Highlands and old Bibb Mill area but was delayed by rain. That project is expected to be dedicated early next year.

“Everything is in place, the bridges are there,” Jones said. “They have to do some final finishing with the trail itself. I think when it’s all said and done, hopefully folks are going to be proud.”

Combined with work on a separate section near City Mills along First Avenue at 18th Street, the completed path will offer about 22 miles of walking and cycling from Lake Oliver south to Fort Benning.

Residents can now get on the trail spanning Victory Drive in stead of waiting for the construction to end. Two miles of trail should keep the average walker happy for a while.

If you’ve seen something that needs attention, give me a call at 706-571-8576.

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