Part of the land will be used for the planned Rails-to-Trails Firefly Trail that will connect Athens-Clarke, Oglethorpe, and Greene counties.
The Georgia Department of Transportation will transfer approximately two miles of property and right of way to the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government for bike-pedestrian trails. The land, valued at $2.4 million, will be used to develop two one-mile sections along the Firefly Trail and the Easley Mill section of the North Oconee Greenway.
The Firefly Trail is a planned 39-mile Rails-to-Trail project that will connect Athens-Clarke, Oglethorpe, and Greene counties. The trail starts with this one-mile section located between East Broad Street and Old Winterville Road and is located within a designated Georgia Railroad Corridor.
When complete, the Firefly Trail will pass through the towns of Woodville, Maxeys, Stephens, Crawford, Arnoldsville, and Winterville, terminating in Union Point.
Athens-Clarke County is currently developing the 8-mile section between downtown Athens and the City of Winterville.
Easley Mill Trail
Easley Mill Trail is an approximate one-mile section of the popular 15-mile North Oconee River Greenway multi-use trail system. Though a seemingly small trail section, the Easley Mill segment is critical to the functionality of the Greenway, providing a connection to Dudley Park, the University of Georgia, downtown Athens and surrounding neighborhoods.
This section is a historically significant area to the founding of Athens where Daniel Easley established a mill on the Oconee River.
GDOT’s role in trail planning
The trails will provide a variety of benefits to the North Georgia communities they impact. In addition to promoting healthy outdoor activities, GDOT says the trails will enhance transportation and economic development while preserving the area’s history.
In addition to the land transfer, Georgia DOT helped coordinate and secure federal funding for the projects. The state agency also worked with federal and other state officials to review and address several different types of environmental impacts such as protecting environmentally sensitive species and historic resources, erosion control during trail construction, eliminating invasive plant species, and protecting wildlife.
“These concepts require a progressive approach to collaboration. GDOT was able to fill in the blanks and connect the dots between local initiatives and the federal government,” says GDOT’s District 1 Program Manager Cleopatra James. “This is a tangible example of how the department uses innovative approaches to transportation management and partners with local communities on transit-oriented projects that go beyond just roads and bridges.”
Additional support for the Athens portion of the trail comes from a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), the Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services Department, and individual donors within the community.
“Although each trail is only a mile long, there were several hurdles that needed to be overcome in order to secure additional funding,” says Athens-Clarke County’s SPLOST Project Administrator Derek Doster. “GDOT was able to help us navigate the process and provided invaluable guidance. We could not have done it without them.”