Plan would extend, add bike trails

Jim Blaylock/Staff
Terry Chappel, of Augusta, rides the path at the canal headgates in Columbia County. Plans would lengthen paths across the county.

Bicycle and walking enthusiasts might eventually have some new trails to traverse in Columbia County.

Plans are in the works to extend Grovetown's Euchee Creek Trails, to build the Euchee Creek Greenway around Patriots Park and to construct some trails as part of the Evans Town Center Park.

Some of the construction will hinge on citizen support as the trails likely will be included on a November sales tax referendum.

Preliminary items officials would like to include on a referendum are $2 million for the first phase of the greenway and $6 million for the Town Center Park.

"It's going to go around Patriots Park, down Columbia Road, through Bartram Trail," said Preston Duffie, the county's landscape architect and community forester, about the greenway's first phase. "It's going to piggyback on the sewer easements and then come back on the power easements to form a four-mile loop."

Later phases might include building a trail north to connect to Riverside Park on Hardy-McManus Road and south to the Euchee Creek Trails in Grovetown, which currently extend from Wrightsboro Road to Harlem-Grovetown Road.

Mr. Duffie said he hopes to work with Grovetown officials on a joint venture to connect the greenway to the trails.

"That'd be great, but the part we're adding on is going the opposite direction," Grovetown Mayor George James said.

Through a $500,000 TEA Grant, a federal grant allocated through state departments of transportation to build alternative transportation routes, Grovetown officials intend to add to their two-mile trail on 30 acres of donated land between the trail on Harlem-Grovetown Road and Liberty Park, Mr. James said.

Trails will circumnavigate the future Town Center Park at the field behind the Evans Kroger.

County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said part of the park plan includes extending the trail to Evans to Locks Road. However, it might go further.

Mr. Cross said a park plan could include building a bike path down Evans To Locks Road to a CSX railroad track. A trail currently exists on the other side of the track and extends down Evans To Locks Road to the Savannah Rapids Pavilion.

The railroad track is a major impediment to connecting the trails.

"We're not going to pay them (CSX) $500,000 to do a new gate system there to cross the tracks," Mr. Cross said. "If people want to ride across the tracks, like they do today, that'd be fine."

Gaps in the current bike path on Evans to Locks Road, near Stevens Creek Elementary School and Blue Ridge Drive, might get filled during future transportation projects on the road, Mr. Duffie said.

Unless county officials propose, and voters pass, a bond referendum along with the sales tax package, the earliest county officials can collect sales tax funds for building the trails at Patriots and Evans Town Center parks would be 2011.

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.