This past weekend in Athens, 150 trail advocates, users, builders, and supporters came together for the first statewide trails conference in fifteen years. This highly collaborative Summit brought together water trail specialists, the equestrian and hiking communities, plus dozens of governmental and nonprofit organizations working to enhance bicycle and pedestrian trails throughout Georgia.
Georgia Bikes is very proud to have served on the planning committee, and we are honored to have been a part of this exciting, essential step toward realizing better and more connected trails for residents and visitors to our beautiful state.
Keynote speakers from Million Mile Greenway, ALTA Planning+Design, the Atlanta BeltLine, and the PATH Foundation shared inspiring stories of how some of Georgia’s most impressive trails came to be and how their presence has been nothing short of transformational for the communities that benefit from their presence.
Trails of all kinds are destinations, and destinations draw people. Over 2 million people per year visit the Silver Comet Trail, and the economic impact of these visitors is truly impressive (see the data here). The BeltLine in Atlanta has spurred over a billion dollars in private economic development, and it’s not even a quarter completed!
Recognizing the incredible return on investment for trail facilities, many senior officials from the Georgia Department of Economic Development were in attendance. They offered statewide tourism resources to promote existing trails and pledged their support for helping to create expanded trails across the state.
Bruce Green from GDECD shares how state tourism resources can improve trails
To wrap up the weekend (and actually get out and enjoy some trails), we partnered with our friends from BikeAthens to lead a tour of the North Oconee River Greenway, where we discussed how multi-use paths can be integrated with on-street bike facilities and learned about local efforts to connect the Greenway to off-road bike trails and to the exciting Firefly Trail project.
Summit coordinator Tracie Sanchez points out the future trailhead of the Firefly Rail-Trail
Many thanks to the tireless, creative planning committee for the Georgia Trail Summit. We have no doubt
this conference left everyone who attended more inspired, informed and connected – and that can only mean great things ahead for trails in Georgia!