A group of 50-60 interested citizens got a preview of a draft report proposing 27.5 miles of new multi-purpose trails in the city, connecting not only different parts of the city, but linking the city’s two premier trails, the Fall Line Trace and the Riverwalk.
The presentation was created by an Atlanta nonprofit called the PATH Foundation, which has developed hundreds of miles of such trails in Georgia. It was delivered to the crowd in the Council Chambers of the City Services Center by PATH Executive Director Ed McBrayer, one of the group’s founders.
McBrayer said there are 12 trail “links” in the proposal which total the 27.5 miles, but the most important one covers the 1.4 miles between the city’s two main multi-purpose trails.
“If you’re going to fix any of the missing links, this is the one to fix,” McBrayer said. “If you’re going to spend money, this is the place to spend it, because these two trails need to be connected.”
Presently, the Fall Line Trace ends at 10th Avenue near the Midtown Medical Center, and cyclists must use bike lanes down 10th, then right down Linwood to Sixth Street, then right on 14th to the Riverwalk. The proposal would follow the same route, but would put 12-foot-wide, two-lane paths, separated from vehicular traffic by a curb and grass strip, all along the path.
Riders and walkers would still have to cross busy 10th Avenue, but the proposal calls for adding a signal at the crossing similar to the one where the Trace crosses Hilton Avenue, where users activate a red light, halting vehicular traffic.
McBrayer said the next project on the list that should be implemented is a similar treatment along Martin Luther King Boulevard, which could be done less expensively because the city is poised to resurface and refurbish the length of the boulevard from Buena Vista Road to 10th Avenue.
In that project, users would exit MLK onto 10th, go left to Eighth Street, right to Fifth Avenue, left to Seventh Street, which would take them to the Riverwalk.
Other proposed projects include:
Linking the first two trail additions by adding a trail down Sixth Avenue between 14th Street and Eighth Street.
Linking the new South Lumpkin rails to trails project, currently under construction, to the Riverwalk and creating a loop around the National Infantry Museum.
Linking the eastern end of the MLK project with the Riverwalk at Rigdon Park with a multi-use path that would follow Bull Creek.
Linking the north end of the Riverwalk with the City Marina.
The PATH Foundation was in Columbus at the behest of a new group called the Friends of Columbus Greenway Committee, which has started a fund, managed by the Community Foundation, to enter into a public-private partnership with the city to get the trail links built.
Attorney Ken Henson, one of the fund’s founders, said he could not project what the project would cost because engineering hasn’t been done. But he is confident the committee can raise the necessary funds, and with matching funds from the city, possibly using discretionary TSPLOST funds, the projects could possibly be complete in five years.
An advantage to partnering with the PATH Foundation is the fact that they are a non-profit.
“Because they’re a non-profit, they are able to do a mile of a rail trail for significantly less than we’ve been spending,” Henson said. “Hopefully we can figure out a way to do it in five years. I think we can get started next year.”