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RDC hopes to put in trail south of Riceboro

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POSTED: February 13, 2007 5:06 a.m.
The Coastal Georgia Regional Development Center is working with the Georgia Department of Transportation to conduct a Rails-to-Trails feasibility study from north of Kingsland to south of Riceboro.
The abandoned railroad runs through Camden, Glynn, McIntosh and Liberty counties.
“GDOT is pleased to provide funding support for the feasibility of this study,” Amy Goodwin, State Bicycle and Pedestrian coordinator, said
It is anticipated that the feasibility study will be completed by April 30.
The center prepared the Coastal Georgia Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan in 2005 and it was adopted by the RDC board that year.
One of the recommendations of the plan is to explore the feasibility of the Rails-to-Trails study, as suggested by the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.
During the comment period on the draft Coastal Georgia Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, Karen M. Votava, executive director, East Coast Greenway Alliance, said in a 2005 letter to the RDC, “Citing more specifically that the abandoned rail corridor between Kingsland and Riceboro should be explored immediately as viable means of bringing the East Coast Greenway off-road. And further, exploring other longer rights-of-way that offer possibilities for a north-south off-road route”.
During the past several months, the RDC staff has been conducting research and compiling the property ownership information and investigating the ground conditions of the abandoned railroad corridor in all four counties.
Based on the field investigations, the RDC said, “It’s a treasure out there. We have seen parts of the abandoned rail bed in each of the four counties that are in great condition, while some require minor cleanup such as grass cutting, trimming of tree limbs, etc.”
Vernon Martin, CGRDC executive director, said, “This is an excellent project. The RDC and staff are very excited about this project, as well as many others since this holds great potential to become a greenway system as a shared use path for walking, biking, jogging, etc.  Mushtaq Hussain, who is spearheading this project, and his team are working hard to develop this feasibility study.”
The project may serve as an attractive tool for developers to sell and develop their property along the abandoned railroad corridor. The RDC wishes that GDOT could have bought the railroad right-of-way from the CSX railroad company when they sold the property a long time ago.
 In addition, the potential Rails-to-Trails (shared-use path) would provide connection to cities, small towns, facilities (such as parks), and to the existing state bike routes, and increase tourism and economic growth in the area.
Similar projects have been completed within Georgia and other states. For example, “the Silver Comet Trail that runs from Atlanta, Georgia to Alabama had approximately two million users in 2004”, said Ed McBrayer, executive director of Path Foundation.
The RDC conducted two preliminary meetings in summer 2006 and restarted another series of Rails-to-Trails meetings in December 2006, which will continue through spring 2007.
The meeting this past December was attended by 12 people from four different counties. But on Jan. 11, a public meeting was attended by 35 people from all four counties expressing their interest and enthusiasm for the project.
“We would like to see this project happen. It is such a great project that each County would benefit from it,” Chris Beaufit, owner of MonkeyWrench Bicycles at St. Simons Island, said.
The project needs support from the public and elected officials. The RDC is encouraging the general public and interested citizens to attend the future meetings to provide input.
Meeting dates and location can be obtained by calling the CGRDC at (912) 264-7363, ext. 242.
 

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