Rome’s network of trails is seeing an increase in activity during the COVID-19 public health emergency, according to members of a local trails advocacy group.
Leaders of TRED — Trails for Recreation and Economic Development — are now seeking to position the nonprofit to actively promote hiking and biking around the community as a healthy lifestyle.
The group has been working behind the scenes quietly in recent years. But TRED President Julie Smith said they’re ready to ramp things up again soon.
One of the first priorities, she said, is to beef up the organization’s board of directors and board of advisors. The idea is to get additional input on how they can contribute more to quality of life efforts in Rome and Floyd County.
“We’re all working on a new strategic plan,” Smith said.
TRED was founded in late 2012 to raise money for the $100,000 local match required to keep a state transportation trails grant.
Members rallied to save the $400,000 grant for the first phase of the Redmond Trail, which will run from the end of the Oostanaula River levee near West 12th Street, across Little Dry Creek, to a trailhead behind the post office.
The trail has still not been constructed but work is all but ready to start. Norfolk Southern Railroad recently gave long-awaited approval for an easement under a trestle that crosses the Oostanaula at Ridge Ferry Park.
Floyd County Manager Jamie McCord has indicated he expects the Georgia Department of Transportation to release funding for the project later this year.
Marketing Rome’s trail system is something Smith believes TRED can help improve.
She said a man from Paulding County recently contacted her about mountain biking trails in Rome because everything had been shut down in Paulding. He came up and rode the trails on Jackson Hill, loved them and said he’d be back with friends.
Over the weekend, Smith, her husband, Trey, and son Charlie joined Harry and Dawn Brock on a walking tour of a new off-road trail that volunteers with the nonprofit are developing. She said the trail will be one of the most challenging yet, for both bikers and hikers.
The new trail, right at a mile in length, near the Jackson Hill trail system will become part of Rome’s “urban wilderness” trail system. Steve Kight, TRED’s chief trailblazer on the project, said it’s been in the works for about a year and a half.
“I worked on it for a few months, then the weather changed and it got really hot,” Kight said.
For the last six months, rain has been a challenge. But Kight said the frequent downpours help with assessing the quality of the work to date.
“The soil has been great. We’ve been amazed at how the drainage works so well,” he said.
Kight has been getting a lot of help from Steve Fellers and Mark Brown and hopes the new trail can be open by late summer or early fall.
Harry Brock said he hopes plans for the Lindale Trail project included in the 2017 SPLOST package don’t get shoved to the back of the priority list because of concerns over a potential shortfall of revenue collections. Brock said that, at very least, he hopes the right of way for the trail can be acquired from Norfolk Southern.
Smith said she’s wants to have plans by then for a reinvigorated TRED and a new Rome-Floyd Greenway Partnership to promote the whole trail system in Rome.