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County looks at connecting nature trails near Grovetown

Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Columbia County officials are reviewing a proposal to close a gap of about 1 mile between separate walking trails in Grovetown.

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The city built the Euchee Creek Trails in 2004. It follows the creek from Harlem-Grovetown Road to Wrightsboro Road.

Ivey Residential LLC, developer of the Canterbury Farm neighborhood on Chamblin Road, built a 1,200-foot walking trail along Euchee Creek through the subdivision in 2008.

The county's Greenspace Advisory Board now wants to connect those trails with one of their own at a cost of $625,000, with $250,000 from a state Department of Transportation grant and the rest coming from the 1-percent sales tax.

"It's a win for Grovetown and it's a win for Canterbury (Farms)," said county Community and Leisure Services Director Barry Smith, who oversees the Greenspace Ad-visory Board.

The Greenspace board developed in 2007 a master plan for a trail system that stretches nearly the entire length of the county, but the multi-million dollar price tag for such a project has prompted officials to think smaller, board Chairman Bill Corder told commissioners last week.

Currently, Smith said, the board is negotiating with two developers to donate the land for the connecting trail.

The proposed trail was made possible by the construction of a new bridge across Euchee Creek on Wrightsboro Road.

Grovetown Public Works Director Michael Woods said the city donated land to DOT in exchange for them extending the trail below the new bridge to a small parking lot on the opposite side of Wrightsboro Road.

"That new bridge was the important link," Smith said. "It allowed us to cross Wrightsboro Road in a safe manner."

If commissioners approve the plan, Smith said the entire trail would extend about 2.5 miles.

While the county considers its trail, Grovetown is conducting studies for a new one.

Made possible with a $250,000 Transportation Enhancement grant from DOT, along with $65,000 in sales tax funds, the new Grovetown trail would reach from Reynolds Farm Road to Wrightsboro Road.

Grovetown Mayor George James said the current trail is popular with residents.

"It stays pretty busy," James said. "It's given our citizens an opportunity to go out and enjoy nature a little bit without having to go too far."

Shirley Beasley, city manager of Grovetown, said officials would like to one day link the trails where they end at Harlem-Grovetown Road and Reynolds Farm Road, but it might prove too costly.

Estimates suggest it will cost $800,000 to construct that trail and dig a tunnel beneath Harlem-Grovetown Road, Beasley said.

Beasley thinks it would be too dangerous to simply build the trail to the edge of the road and allow pedestrians or cyclists to cross it.

"It's really dangerous on Harlem-Grovetown Road," she said. "Just about anywhere you go on that road, because of the curves, it can be dangerous. Even if you're going just 45 (mph), if someone is in that road, it would be awfully hard to stop."

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