web1_BikeTrailWEB

City considers bike trails

Officials to sign with consultant

By Tyler H. Jones

tjones@civitasmedia.com

Ross McLarin, a student at the University of West Georgia, walks the Hay’s Mill section of the Greenbelt Trail in Carrollton on Tuesday. LaGrange officials are considering the construction of a similar trail in LaGrange.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_BikeTrailWEB.jpgRoss McLarin, a student at the University of West Georgia, walks the Hay’s Mill section of the Greenbelt Trail in Carrollton on Tuesday. LaGrange officials are considering the construction of a similar trail in LaGrange. Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

LaGRANGE — The mayor and City Council on Tuesday gave City Manager Tom Hall the green light to sign a contract with an Atlanta-based nonprofit to explore the possibility of adding paved bike trails to LaGrange.

The city will contract with the PATH Foundation to create a master plan and design a multi-mile trail system that would encircle the city and provide access to various locations throughout the city, Hall said.

The PATH Foundation has designed other similar projects across the state, including Atlanta’s BeltLine trail and the Carrollton Greenbelt, a 17-mile path that connects Carrollton’s University of West Georgia, Tanner Medical Center, various employers and shopping centers.

Carrollton City Manager Tim Grizzard said his city’s Greenbelt project began in 2011 and is slated to be completed later this year.

Hall said the city’s will pay the PATH Foundation $46,200 to design a bike trail concept, which would be presented publicly once its finished.

“We’ve done a good job investing in our parks, but we don’t really have much for adults to do,” Hall said. “This is an amenity that would last for generations and its something that’s popular with millennials.”

The project would be more than just a sidewalk. In Carrollton, Grizzard, the city manager, said their Greenbelt trail project has been “one of the best things to happen to the city in a long time.”

Grizzard said he was initially skeptical of the project. He worried no one would use it and it would be an avenue for crime.

Today, he’s changed his tune.

“I was completely wrong,” he said. “I guess you could say I’m born again. I even went out and bought a bike. In all actuality, crime goes down, because more people are out walking and keeping an eye on things.”

The Carrollton Greenbelt is a two-lane, 8 to 10-foot wide path that along its route includes dog parks, disc golf courses and “pocket parks,” Grizzard said.

It didn’t come cheap, though. The Greenbelt cost $22 million to construct, $1.5 million of which was taxpayer funded with the remainder being donated by a private benefactor.

Hall said any similar project in LaGrange could be constructed using a mixture of special-purpose, local option sales taxes approved by voters, private investment and possibly grant funding.

While discussions about funding are far away, Hall said the public would have input at public hearings throughout the process of a trail’s construction — if elected officials decided to move forward with it.

The first section of the trail would be constructed in Granger Park, connecting Haralson Street to the existing Granger complex on Hunnicutt Drive. That section would serve as a pilot example for the public to see what the project would look like and city officials have already begun planning that stretch. The city was awarded a grant in December for $100,000 toward the construction of the trail.

Councilman Tom Gore said Tuesday he thought the idea of a trail was worth looking in to.

“People want to see things that make LaGrange a special place to live,” he said.

Read LaGrange Daily News online and in print for updates about this and other stories.

Tyler H. Jones is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.