Georgia is on the verge of building a world-class trail network. Once the dusty 1998 comprehensive trail plan was discovered on the shelves at Georgia DNR, a group of trail blazers were determined to update it by bringing Georgia’s trail community together to meet in person.
That group of volunteers have organized the Georgia Trail Summit for four years, offering the annual statewide Summit as a chance to strengthen ties and collaborations between Georgia’s growing community of trail builders.
This year, the Trail Summit travels to Columbus April 20 – 22 to showcase tremendous progress being made there, and to share trail successes and lessons learned around the state. By sharing knowledge, we accelerate the progress of new trails and connect them to each other across Georgia. There will be 12 opportunities to personally experience the trails of Columbus. Mobile workshops will have you paddling the Chattahoochee Blueway – a water trail, biking the new Dragonfly Trails network or Discovery Trails at nearby Callaway Gardens, strolling downtown with Trees Columbus, mountain biking the trails at Flat Rock Park or exploring a heritage trail or geocaching along the scenic Riverwalk.
As Ryan Gravel said recently, “It’s a new way of life” and we support that vision wholly. Ryan is on the program again this year laying out another big vision for the Chattahoochee River corridor. Surprisingly to some, the Atlanta BeltLine has proven to be a leader in this lifestyle change. Sections of the Atlanta trail project that are complete experience record visitation, from folks seeking fitness, social encounters, healthy commutes to work, to dining while people watching. A trail has changed their lives. Georgia Tech has begun the research on the BeltLine’s economic and public health impacts and locals are documenting the possible outcomes as well. Mark Pendergrast covers all of these issues in City on the Verge.
In just four years, we’ve seen the focus in trail building expand toward projects of regional significance, connecting across municipalities, and finding creative funding beyond the RTP and federal grants. Brownfields, disaster relief, hotel occupancy taxes, tax allocation districts and of course private funding have all accelerated the pace of trail building statewide.
NIMBYs seem almost nonexistent as people who live near trails exemplify the quality of life others desire to emulate. Property values rise and myriad developments occur along trail routes to serve trail users, residents and commuters who frequent new trail corridors. All of a sudden, everybody wants a trail in their community.
Georgia trail guru Ed McBrayer of the PATH Foundation, builder of over 250 miles of trails in Georgia, says his phone used to ring off the hook with NIMBYs, as Pendergrast documents in his book. Today those calls are from WIMBYs who want a trail that he can’t build fast enough. As urban trails like the BeltLine connect communities previously not accessible to each other, they must do so equitably. Nathaniel Smith of Partnership for Southern Equity will share tools at this year’s Summit to measure and provide equity in trail design especially in retaining and adding adjacent affordable housing.
So join us at the Georgia Trail Summit. Get inspired. Take home techniques and strategies and get to work building and connecting trails across Georgia. That’s why we hold the Summit. For you.
Future outcomes from our team will likely support comprehensive trail planning across regions, consulting for Trail Towns and recommending public policy that enhances trails and healthy lifestyles, all to support a new way of life in Georgia. Details at www.georgiatrailsummit.com.
by Tracie Sanchez, Director, Georgia Trail Summit