Community leaders met at the trailhead of the new Mount Berry Trail on Wednesday to formally cut a ribbon signifying the completion of the 1.8 mile path running from behind the U.S. post office out to Big Dry Creek.
The trail has already gotten a lot of use since work wrapped up near the end of August. Rome City Manager Sammy Rich even remarked that he’s seen a lot of new faces out on the Mount Berry Trail.
“There’s a different vibe and we would have thought our biggest issue would have been we didn’t have enough parking for a trailhead, but that’s been the reality here,” Rich said.
Berry College President Steve Briggs said the school is planning to connect across its pastures from the main campus to the new trail. The route has been chosen but Briggs said the timeline for construction has not been determined yet. Much of that will be based on the outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Berry makes much of its land available for running, biking and hiking, and we do so because we are a permanent member of this community,” Briggs said. “We want this to be a place that is a thriving and a great place to live.”
Close to 70% of the new trail is on Berry property.
Julie Smith, executive director of Trails for Recreation and Economic Development, told the large crowd that the timing of the trail’s completion could not have been much better.
“Trail usage over this last six or seven months during this pandemic has increased 200%,” Smith said.
For those who don’t understand the value of using public funds for trails, Smith said, the paths can be used for transportation as well as recreation.
She said trails are inclusive, free and available to everyone across the community. Smith reported on a study showing that for every dollar spent on trails, health care costs in a community can be decreased by as much as $3.
Rich explained plans to extend the trail across Big Dry Creek to the Armuchee Connector. When Floyd County completes a short link from the north end of the Oostanaula River levee near East 12th Street to connect across Little Dry Creek to the Mount Berry Trail, the community will have a large loop trail from downtown all the way out to Berry College.
Long term goals for the trail network include connecting both Georgia Northwestern College and Georgia Highlands College to the trail network.