The Union Recorder

March 8, 2013

Greenway construction increasing connectivity

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — The Oconee River Greenway Authority (ORGA) aspires to connect green spaces from north to south creating a natural corridor that improves river access, increases recreational and educational activity and boosts economic potential. Recent Greenway Phase 2 construction and acquisition of the 250-acre Selma Irwin Nature Trail link these goals.

In a Thursday meeting ORGA executive director Dr. Heather Langston said Phillips Brothers Contracting Inc. continues successful and speedy work on the property’s north end. 

One mile of 10-foot concrete trails north of the bridge, a boardwalk over Phase 1 wetlands, overlooks and a more permanent concert stage make up the master plan. 

Creation of a 1.1-acre off-lease dog park highlight Phase 2. The park will be handicap accessible featuring water fountains, dog stations and picnic tables.

Langston estimated the completion dates around two to three more months. She praised the contract team’s work.

“It’s been remarkable to me how much they’ve gotten done in such little time,” Langston said. “Rain and flooding don’t stop them.”

A large and welcome portion of the Greenway work is the Greene Street extension project. The extended driveway will become the new, safer entrance.

The concrete drive comes with extra parking also.

“We will close the current entrance to all but non-vehicular traffic,” the ORGA director said.

Total construction costs hover around $1.3 million. The Greenway received a grant and $150,000 in SPLOST funds together with Bicycling Club of Milledgeville and Greenway foundation contributions to make the projects happen.

Greenway foundation board member Dr. Jim Lidstone said the $250,000 match for Phase 2 monies is cash or in-kind services.

“We need the funds because most of the grant money we apply for requires a match. They don’t just give you the money. You’ve got to spend to get back,” Lidstone said.

The Oconee River Greenway is always looking for volunteers or friends. Individual volunteer work hours count toward the match requirement. The grantor, whether state or federal, places the dollar amount.

Lidstone said this figure could range from $11 to $28 per hour depending on the project and individual skill level.

Greenway foundation board member and Milledgeville Bicycling Club president Tom Glover outlined the Selma Irwin Nature Trail located at the intersection of Vinson Highway and Laying Farm Road. The property, now in ORGA hands, is a nature preserve boasting a five-mile multi-use trail system.

“Normally, you’d have to travel to the North Georgia Mountains to find this sort of trail system,” Glover said.

The local bike club and Baldwin County Mountain Bikers maintain the 250-acre nature preserve.

Glover said extending the trails to 10 miles and making the entrance by state pond No. 9 more accessible are immediate goals providing more use options. 

“Doing so will make us a destination community,” Glover said. “We feel we can bring a lot of people in just to come and ride this.”

The authority is also working on the half-mile start to the Fishing Creek Community Trail that will connect the park to South Elbert Street. The unpaved, soft surface stretch travels around the old railroad bed to the edge of Georgia Military College property.

June 1 is the target completion date, according to Lidstone. This Greenway connection locks into the larger proposed Live Healthy Baldwin 14-mile community trails through downtown, Georgia College West Campus and the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Industrial Park.

Maps for the Selma trail are available for $1 at Oconee Outfitters. Visit www.oconeerivergreenway.org for event and membership information updates.

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