A network of local bike trails — some already in place and others planned for the future — needs a connector.
If the entire network of trails is completed, in the future, bicyclists and walkers could get from the Oconee River Greenway to the Baldwin County School District main campus and Georgia College’s West Campus. The piece discussed at the monthly Baldwin County Board of Education meeting Tuesday was the “campus connector” that would finish a stretch of trail from Ga. Highway 49, adjacent to Baldwin High School, to the Baldwin County School District central campus.
Last month, Georgia College public health professor Dr. Jim Lidstone approached the BOE about a grant GC is applying for that would complete campus connector. The grant calls for a local match, and Lidstone was seeking $10,000 from the BOE to put towards that match. The board committed to providing the requested amount at its regular monthly meeting held Tuesday.
The grant opportunity comes from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Recreational Trails Program. The funding is federal, but is administered at the state level by the DNR through its Recreational Trails Program.
Lidstone attended the board’s September work session to give members an wide overview of the project that the funding would help complete. GC first approached the board four years ago and requested $5,000 toward the campus connector project. Turned out that the grant was not enough to cover the cost of the trail and the bridge necessary to complete the connector, so he’s applying for a second grant to finish it off. Lidstone told board members that should Georgia College receive this new grant the campus connector trail complete with bridge could be finished by the end of 2019.
The board took a month to consider the new request and committed to the $10,000 amount per Superintendent Dr. Noris Price’s recommendation Tuesday. Board chair Shannon Hill, District 2, entertained a motion for the recommendation and that motion was made by Dr. Gloria Wicker, District 1, and seconded by vice chair Lyn Chandler, District 3. The vote was passed unanimously 4-0 by all board members present. District 4 representative John Jackson was not at the monthly meeting. Price told board members that the memorandum of understanding, or agreement, between the BOE and Georgia College still has to be reviewed by the board attorney, but any necessary changes will be made and brought back to the board for formal approval. Georgia College just needed the commitment in order to move forward with the grant application process.
In 2015 when Georgia College approached the BOE about the initial campus connector grant, the only trail in the network that existed was the “trail to nowhere” that starts at Highway 49 next to Baldwin High School and leads to West Campus. This campus connector would continue that trail on through West Campus and finish up near the school district’s bus garage, thus “connecting” the high school to the board office campus via bike trail. Lidstone pointed out that the “trail to nowhere” was put in place to allow college students to avoid the 441 bypass when biking from West Campus to downtown. They could utilize the trail from their apartments to Highway 49 then ride straight into town.
In 2017, the Safe Routes to School project was completed. What it did was create a sidewalk that ties Midway Hills Primary and Lakeview Primary on Blandy Road to the central office main campus. Also built with that grant funding was a pedestrian bridge over Fishing Creek that now keeps kids walking the area off Blandy Road.
The vision for the future is to create another trail Lidstone referred to as the “Fishing Creek Community Trail” that would stretch from the school district central campus (where it would connect the Safe Routes to School trail to the campus connector) on towards downtown.