By SHERRY DIGMON
Could Atmore be part of a network of trails connecting all 67Alabama counties? It’s a real possibility, according to representatives of Sweet Trails Alabama who were in town on a “fact finding” mission Wednesday, October 4.
Sixteen people attended the meeting at Atmore Public Library to hear about the plans and provide input on what this area can offer on a trail network.
John Kvach with Sweet Trails Alabama said, “We’re looking for small towns to engage.”
According to Kvach, the benefits of trails – walking, hiking, biking – are numerous:
- Health and wellness,
- Economic development,
- Keep younger people in the area. [Especially with downtown revitalization] They may ask, “I have a downtown but what else do I have?”
- Connect industrial park and community
- Increased property values
- Creating a living document
- Better place to live and work.
State Senator Andrew Jones, District 10, accompanied the group to Atmore. He sponsored SB298 “Relating to outdoor recreation; to provide for the development of a strategic trail network; to provide for grants for qualified donations of donated property; to create the Sweet Trails Alabama Project Fund and the Sweet Trails Alabama Acquisition Fund and provide for the use of monies in the funds; and to further provide for the liability of property owners for recreational use of certain property and abutting property.”
“There are different things going on all over the state for trails,” Senator Jones said. “We need a common goal.”
Jones said the trails would enhance the quality of life in the state.
“We need outdoor recreation,” he said. “It will take a lot of time, money and planning to connect all sixty-seven counties.”
Kavach noted that the Gulf Coast RC&D Council has been most generous in their support of Sweet Trails Alabama. A check for $25,000 was presented to Sweet Trails Alabama by the Council during the meeting.
On hand for the presentation were Gulf Coast RC&D Executive Director Charlie Ramsey, Gulf Coast RC&D Programs Manager Sarah Wooten, Gulf Coast RC&D Board member Terri Breckenridge and
Tracy Sells, Sweet Trails Alabama John Kvach, Alabama Senator Andrew Jones, and Alabama Representative Alan Baker.
As the discussion and exchange of ideas continued, Kvach urged everyone to “think big and figure it all out later.”
Matt Hayes, with Alta Planning and Design, said, “We want to make Alabama a better place. We also want to create a way to help fund these projects.
Hayes and Sara Kovachich, also with Alta, documented ideas from the audience in a visions and goals brainstorming session. Some of the ideas mentioned were
- Economic development / impact – trails long term
- Connecting Little River State Park and Magnolia Branch
- Connect state parks
- Tannehill trails
- WWII CCC
- Little River State Park – mentioned numerous times
- Old Federal Highway
- Central Escambia County short line RR track
“We have to build infrastructure around the trail,”Kvach said. “Rural Alabama needs some amenities as well as cities.”
Future meetings will be held in the winter, spring and summer.
For more information and to get involved, www.sweettrailsalabama.org. You’re invited to complete the survey.