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On the trail: Chief Ladiga Trail gets mention in National Geographic Adventure magazine

By Megan Nichols
Anniston Star Staff Writer
May 6, 2009

Joggers are seen in the distance on the Chief Ladiga Trail on Mountain Street in Jacksonville. Photo: Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star file Local officials hope some national exposure will bring new adventurers to the Chief Ladiga Trail. National Geographic Adventure magazine named the 33-mile trail one of the season's best weekend trips in its April/May issue.

The blurb about the Chief Ladiga calls it "a rail trail on MLB-caliber steroids."

"They got it right," said Pete Conroy, director of Jacksonville State University's field schools and Environmental Policy and Information Center, who helped shepherd the trail into existence.

Conroy called the Chief Ladiga Trail a world-class destination, especially now that it's connected with Georgia's Silver Comet trail, creating a 95-mile paved pathway. Because the magazine is targeted to people who enjoy the outdoors, Conroy said the mention is especially exciting. Anniston Mayor Gene Robinson agreed. "The outdoor, rugged type that looks at that magazine is obviously going to be interested in coming here," he said. "This marks the beginning of putting Calhoun County on the tourism map of America."

Mike Poe, a member of the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Club, said he expects the Chief Ladiga mention to increase traffic on the trail. "You can bike, walk, push a stroller, rollerblade," he said. "You can expect not only beautiful forested areas, but also peoples' backyards and quaint downtowns."

The Chief Ladiga Trail was built beginning in 1990, when Piedmont and the Calhoun County Commission received the first federal grants for constructing the trail on an abandoned rail bed.

Anniston, Jacksonville, Weaver and JSU later received funding to complete other portions of the trail.

Piedmont, Cleburne County sign Chief Ladiga trail agreement

Anniston Star Staff Report
May 6, 2009

Piedmont wants to make sure that people coming from Georgia on the Chief Ladiga Trail will get a good impression when they enter Alabama. To that end the City Council entered into an agreement with Cleburne County at Tuesday night's meeting to maintain the trail from the Alabama-Georgia state line to the Calhoun-Cleburne county line.

"This is really a good agreement for us," said Councilman Brent Morrison. "It's a lot of trouble for Cleburne County to get to that part of the trail. And we want it to look nice because it does come into Piedmont."

The charge to the Cleburne County Commission will not exceed $480 per month.

Maintenance will include mowing both sides of the right of way, weed eating, keeping the trail free of rocks and other debris, supplying labor to replace damaged or missing signage, pruning trees and supplying all equipment and fuel as needed to complete tasks.

Economic development: Can Anniston pave a path to its future?

by Mike Faulk
Anniston Star Staff Writer
May 3, 2009

The verdant slopes of the Appalachian foothills hold more than rolling scenery for Anniston residents. With the right pieces falling into place, the city could strike gold in those hills in terms of economic development. The wheels just aren't turning yet, literally.

Ecotourism projects ? such as a bike trail atop Coldwater Mountain overlooking the city and extensions of the Chief Ladiga Trail south through downtown ? have the potential to spur economic re-development in downtown Anniston, some officials say. They could lure visitors like the hundreds in town for this weekend's cycling events, perhaps year-round.

But such projects aren't easy; there are significant obstacles in the path to completion, not least among them the money and political will to get them done. And even then, the expected economic benefit isn't guaranteed.

Community officials and advocates have varying experiences with developing ecotourism. Many swear the projects will bring economic development, while some are scratching their heads after investing heavily in projects, wondering when the economic boom will come.

Getting started
Pete Conroy, director of Jacksonville State University's Environmental Policy and Information Center, said successful projects start with people at a local level, then grow to reach people of influence at the state and federal levels to get funding. "If there's a formula that has been successful in establishing natural areas, community involvement and advocacy is first," Conroy said.

He said supporters of these projects must forge symbiotic relationships with government officials to show them all aspects of how ecotourism benefits a community.

Being surrounded by protected government areas with rivers, mountains and valleys makes the Mountain Longleaf region "uniquely opportunistic" for those projects, Conroy said.

"Tourism is one of the most sustainable forms of economic development," he said.

Spirit of Anniston executive director Betsy Bean said she recognizes the impact ecotourism can have on rejuvenating downtown Anniston, her organization's goal.

"We need several major attractions down here to jump start our economy downtown," she said.

Bean said improvements are still needed in the urban areas surrounding the old rail bed where officials hope to extend the Chief Ladiga Trail through downtown. She said issues with vacant buildings need to be addressed and more greenery and landscaping are needed near some industrial areas to make the ride through downtown more attractive.

The trail ends near Weaver as of now, but Bean and others in city government said they believe extending it to the historic Fourth Street Amtrak station would help bring a change to the look of downtown.

If the bike trail on Coldwater Mountain can get funding for a parking lot and access road, it along with the Ladiga could turn downtown Anniston into a hub for cyclists, Bean said. "I think that we can develop public art and street furniture and murals and things like that which revolve around cycling," she said. "I see that as something we can capitalize on."

Financing meets politicking
Officials said if more cyclists can be attracted to downtown, statistics suggest those people could contribute greatly to area businesses and tax revenue. "That eco-tourist dollar is so critical all over America," Mayor Gene Robinson said. "Our city government is driven by retail tax base and we have just got to build up retail tax [income]."

Mike Poe, president of the Cheaha Challenge and member of the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Club, said third-party surveys of previous participants in the annual 102-mile cycling event set to take place today show more than 50 percent of respondents had a household income of more than $150,000 a year. Poe said bikers usually come with their families and relatives, many of whom don't bike and spend the day enjoying other attractions in the area.

"Cycling events attract a demographic of traveler that a lot of communities would like to have," Poe said. "They've got money to spend." Poe said the effort for creating the Coldwater Mountain bike trail has gone on for nine years. Poe said it would be a relatively cheap investment with a potentially long-term payoff for downtown. He said the obstacles to its creation are political and the importance of the project needs to be made clear to city officials. "This is a cheap way to attract potentially thousands of people annually," Poe said.

Support for the projects is there with city officials such as Robinson, who said a lack of funding is what really stands in the way of finishing the Coldwater Mountain bike trail.

The city would only have to allocate money for building a gravel parking lot and dirt access road to the trail, the land for which will most likely be donated by five people who own the property adjacent to the trail. City engineer Jonathan Byrd estimates building both would cost $389,000.

Former city manager George Monk said the city put aside about $220,000 for the project in its budget for the fiscal year, but it's not guaranteed. Byrd said the city is also looking for grant money. The rest of the property is already owned by the state, and volunteers from the bicycle club have already built a four-mile circular trail there.

Robinson said the City Council should know after budget planning in August for the 2010 fiscal year if funding can still be put aside for the Coldwater Mountain bike trail. Robinson said the trail is the kind of outdoor attraction near an urban setting that other cities are desperately trying to develop.

"Combined with the Ladiga, it would put Anniston on the U.S. map as far as cycling goes," Robinson said.

Less than hoped for
There are also examples where ecotourism projects haven't proved as useful as hoped in drawing outside attention and economic development to some communities, such as the stretch of the Ladiga that runs through Cleburne County's sparsely populated northern areas.

Cleburne Probate Judge and ex-officio chairman of the County Commission Ryan Robertson said completing the county's share of the paved trail was an on-going struggle as early as 1998, three years before he even came to office. He said the project involved many improvements to infrastructure including the replacement of five old train trestles on the trail, and work was completed on the county's portion in 2008.

The county has long had its issues with funding roads and bridges in its more populated areas, with some closed bridges forcing residents, loggers and school buses to take longer routes to their destinations, Robertson said. That meant getting the public sold on the merit of the Ladiga wasn't easy. "They knew we were spending a lot of money on the trail and they asked, 'Why not spend it on these bridges?'" Robertson said.

He said the county's contribution to the project, aided by grants and private donations, was $661,000. Robertson also said the county pays $5,000 annually for trail maintenance.

Cycling enthusiasts from outside the county kept on commissioners' backs about completing the project, arguing it would spur economic development, but it's yet to be seen whether the county will make that money back through the people drawn in by the trail.

"It's hard to see where the economic boom is from a county perspective," Robertson said. "And it's a very beautiful portion, but we don't have any way to make any kind of revenue back from the trail right now." The result is Cleburne County residents being less likely to support future ecotourism projects unless a clear benefit to the local economy and quality of life can be presented to them, Robertson said. "I'm not saying that it hurt us, but it's hard to tell if we are making any kind of revenue," he said.

Potential for development
Officials in more populated areas where the Ladiga runs through said they are at least convinced of the potential for growth it brings to their cities.

In the case of Jacksonville, Mayor Johnny Smith said he wants the city to create several spurs from the trail that lead to destinations in town such as the town square and the Hampton Inn being built along Alabama 21. A spur to the square would be less than a mile and a spur to the hotel would be about a mile long.

"Where it's had the biggest effect is just quality of life. It's a real asset to have folks out there riding the trail," Smith said. Smith said the city is also renovating the old train depot along the trail, converted from abandoned rails, to give visitors a place to stop. He said the economic impact is yet to come, but he's a believer in the trail's potential. "I'm proud when I'm able to talk about it with people," Smith said.

Piedmont Mayor Brian Young said cyclists can always be seen in and around the Solid Rock Cafe downtown. A few hundred visitors sign the logbook at the city's welcome center along the Ladiga every month, which Young said shows a good number of people from miles away are stopping in Piedmont thanks to the trail. "I feel very sure we're gaining economic benefit from it," Young said.

Cracking the code
Barry Nicholls, a founding organizer of the Cheaha Challenge, remembers riding bikes with the event's first president Mike Vickers when he pitched the idea to Nicholls.

"I said, 'Mike you're crazy. Nobody will ever do that,'" Nicholls said. "'Go 102 miles? Over Cheaha?" Eighteen years later, the Cheaha Challenge has been rated one of the Top 10 events in the state by the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel and is expected to have more participants this year than any time previous.

Events such as the Noble Street Festival are planned in conjunction with the challenge; hotel rooms fill up from Piedmont, where the event starts and ends, to Mount Cheaha; and restaurants, shops and museums brace for extra visitors. Nicholls said some 300 volunteers aid in welcoming the anticipated 700 riders and their families to the festivities. "We impress upon them we're ambassadors for Anniston," he said.

Poe said the event isn't just beneficial to local businesses. The Noble Street Festival has raised $40,000 for Relay for Life in the previous four years, with another $10,000 expected to be raised this year, Poe said.

About $1,500 raised by the Cheaha Challenge is donated to the Chief Ladiga Trail annually, Poe said, meaning money raised from outdoor attractions can directly benefit other ecotourism projects.

"Especially for a city that's has been plagued with non-environmentally friendly stories, what a blessing if you can promote yourself with huge ecotourism attractions," Poe said.

Copyright, 2009, The Anniston Star, Consolidated Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved.

Jacksonville expects to receive funds for trail resurfacing

Jennifer Bacchus
Consolidated News Service
April 21, 2009

JACKSONVILLE ? The City Council expects to receive up to $240,000 in federal money to pay for the first major repairs to the Chief Ladiga Trail in its 19-year history. The resurfacing work for the eight-mile Jacksonville portion of the 33-mile asphalt biking and walking path is one of two projects the council dealt with at a special meeting Monday afternoon ? the other is to resurface Alexandria/Jacksonville Road. Both will be paid for largely with federal money.

The city expects to receive the $240,000 to resurface its portion of the Chief Ladiga Trail either through an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant, which would pay 100 percent of the construction cost, or a federal Transportation Enhancement Program grant, which would pay 80 percent of the cost. No matter which source of funding is approved, the city will pay for preliminary engineering costs, estimated at $18,000.

"Basically, what they're saying is this project's funded," said Mayor Johnny Smith, adding the Alabama Department of Transportation will release funding based on when the order requests come to them. Early requests will receive 100 percent funding, while later requests will get 80 percent. "I'm really surprised by the way ALDOT's doing this, but they're doing first come, first served."

The city also is approved for $400,000 in stimulus funding to resurface Alexandria/Jacksonville Road. The project is estimated by Jones, Blair, Waldrup and Tucker, the city's engineering firm, to cost $481,400. The council unanimously approved moving forward with both projects.

The Chief Ladiga Trail was built beginning in 1990, when Piedmont and the Calhoun County Commission received the first federal grants for constructing the trail on an abandoned rail bed. Anniston, Jacksonville and Weaver and Jacksonville State University later received funding to complete other portions of the trail.

Now, nearly 20 years later, the trail is in good shape, according to Pete Conroy, director of JSU's Environmental Policy and Information Center and chairman of the Chief Ladiga Recreational Trails Board. But some sections are showing a bit of age, not from wear but from tree roots buckling portions of the asphalt surface.

"The Jacksonville City Council is to be applauded for being proactive," Conroy said. He said the oldest portions of the trail in and near Piedmont may be most in need of repair, "sometime in the near future. It's not in overall disrepair."

Copyright, 2009, The Anniston Star, Consolidated Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved.

Linked at last: Alabama, Georgia residents celebrate trail connection

by Dan Whisenhunt
Anniston Star Staff Writer
September 28, 2008

ESOM HILL, Ga. ? Before University of Alabama and University of Georgia fans could start fighting over their football game Saturday, they had to tie the knot.

Lula Mae "Granny" Porter officiated. She is 95 years old ? a year for every mile of Chief Ladiga and Silver Comet Trails, a 95-1/2-mile path connecting Smyrna, Ga., and Anniston.

Saturday, residents of both states celebrated the completion of a connection linking the two trails. It was an event filled with the picking sounds of bluegrass music and the zipping of bicycle tires along the paved path.

The two paths were made possible in-part by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit based in Washington D.C. that helps convert old rail lines for pedestrian uses. According to Grey Brennan, a regional director and marketing manager for the Alabama Tourism Department, it's the longest paved trail of its type in the United States.

During the ceremony, Porter straddled the two trails as children brought strands of ribbon from either end for her to tie. Her house sits on the state line between Alabama and Georgia. She often sits on her front porch and waves to riders as they pass by, she said. "Sometimes they stop and talk to me," she said of the tourists passing by her home. "It's great." Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce President Sherri Sumners said she is relieved she can tell people the connection is finished. "Before, we could say, 'kind of,'" Sumners said.

The trail stops in Anniston at Michael Tucker Park. Plans would eventually end the trail at Anniston's historic Fourth Street train station and include a spur going to McClellan.

Pete Conroy, an employee of Jacksonville State University and chairman of the Calhoun County Recreational Trails Board, said there was some confusion about where Anniston stands on the rest of the project.

City Manager George Monk said the city is still working through it. "The City Council authorized (the city attorney) the other day to write the Southern Transportation Board and we're still talking with Norfolk Southern to acquire the corridor into Anniston," Monk said.

Diane Loupe, a member of Team Geek cycling team which has about a dozen riders, planned to ride into Anniston Saturday. Before the completion of the connection, team members made the trip from Georgia into Alabama using back roads.

Riders Robert Kriner and Brian Tate of Georgia rode their bikes to the state line Saturday. Kriner said he plans to eventually make the trip all the way into Anniston. He said the scenery and paving add up to a great cycling trail.

Sumners and others hope trail tourism will be a boost for Calhoun County. "We feel like the more we promote the trail, the better off we'll be," Sumners said.

Copyright, 2008, The Anniston Star, Consolidated Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved.

2 Day Fun Ride

What: 2 Day Fun Ride
When: Sat & Sun October 13th & 14th, 2007
Where: Silver Comet Trail & Chief Ladiga Trail

This is a 2 day fun ride for unicyclists, but 2-wheeling friends or family are welcome, as long as they are ok with riding at unicycle high speeds. We will ride from Atlanta to Cedartown on day 1 and Cedartown to Anniston, AL on day 2. You can choose to ride both days and just 1 day. If you are riding from Atlanta to Cedartown you will need to provide your own transportation back to Atlanta. We will have a support van for the rides with food, drinks, gear, etc that willmeet us at key points along the path. We will also have a support bicyclist joining us.

You can find out more information about the trails at:Silver Comet Trail:
http://www.pathfoun index.cfm? event=showSilver Comet

Chief Ladiga Trail in Alabama:http://epic.

Map of both Trails:
http://www.sethholl Silver-Comet- and-Chief- Ladiga-Trails- Map.php

If you are interested in participating and want further information,
please contact Robert Coggins rcoggins@hotmail. com

If you do not want to ride, but are willing to provide transportation back from Anniston, AL, or would like to help contact Robert Coggins at or 678-783-6978

JSU class helps out Chief Ladiga Trail
Anniston Star — Jessica Centers

While completion of the Cleburne County section of the Chief Ladiga Trail has been stalled by funding glitches and environmental hurdles, Jacksonville State University is lending hands toward seeing the 33-mile trail connect with Georgia’s Silver Comet Trail as soon as possible.

Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told Cleburne County Engineer Russell Emrick that he would need to survey for endangered species before he could let the contract to pave a four-mile trail extension from the Calhoun County line to Cleburne County 230.

For the complete article and a short slide presentation visit:

Path to glory (and Georgia)
Anniston Star — In our opinion

The last key piece of a puzzle that would link two great trails, one in Alabama and the other in Georgia, is close to being secured. Cleburne County engineer Russell Emrick says that with help from Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, the county has secured a $100,000 grant to complete the last unfinished bridge on the Chief Ladiga Trail.

For the complete article and a short slide presentation visit

Chief Ladiga Trail Board Announces Town Meeting
January 2005

Because it’s a day known for being green and the CLT is known as a “greenway”, Saint Patrick’s Day has been chosen as the day for the next CLT Town Meeting. Thursday, March 17th at 6:00 p.m. board members, mayors, experts and those interested in the Chief Ladiga Trail will gather at the former Fort McClellan to lean more about Alabama’s longest and most successful rail-trail conversion.

For more information about the Town Meeting contact CLT Board Chairman, Pete Conroy at Jacksonville State University.

Board Votes to Extend Trail in Former Military Base
January 2005

On Tuesday, January 18th, a Board of Directors known as the McClellan Joint Powers Authority, voted unanimously to pull up the abandoned tracks that once supported trains which supplied the Army. The base has been closed since 1999 and no trains have used the track since for over six years.

Reports have shown that there is no known industry interested in using the old rail system and even if there was such an interest, it could cost as much as $3.5 million dollars upgrade the system to current standards. Economic experts have encouraged the abandonment of the line.

The JPA, who is charged with the responsibility of reusing the former base, voted to proceed with an abandonment procedure and explore a contact to have the old ties and tracks removed. The future use, according to JPA’s Planner, Miki Schneider is to have the Chief Ladiga Trail extended into McClellan, pass through the proposed Arts and Retail Village, the Longleaf Concert Grounds and ultimately allow pedestrians access to the newly designated Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge.

The motion, which was seconded by JPA Board Member and Anniston Mayor Chip Howell, was made by JPA Board member and JSU EPIC Director Pete Conroy. For more information about the McClellan effort, interested individuals may contact Conroy at Jacksonville State University.

Rock for the roll: Acoustic benefit concert to feature former Wings guitarist
By Brett Buckner

Though his name may not be an instant hit with rock fans, the music he helped create as a member of the '70s supergroup Wings and later as a solo artist, will certainly strike a chord.

From 1978 to 1981, Laurence Juber toured the world as lead guitarist for the Paul McCartney-led band known for such radio staples as "Live and Let Die," "Maybe I'm Amazed," "Goodnight Tonight" and "Coming Up."

And now he's making a tour stop in Anniston. The solo acoustic concert, which will be 7 p.m. Saturday, at the Alabama Show Palace Banquet Room, will benefit the Chief Ladiga Rail Trail Project.

"He's an absolutely amazing guitar player," said Wayne Brown, owner of the Greenbrier Music Shop, which is sponsoring the concert. "There's nothing scaled down about the way he plays. Whether he's playing a Beatles song or a Wings song, he plays all the numerous parts together. Nothing is left out." The concert, Brown clarified, will be strictly instrumental with no vocals.

Brown met Juber, known to acoustic guitar enthusiasts as "L J," several years ago at a trade show and the two men have remained in contact ever since.

"He's a very popular and respected player among acoustic guitarists and fans of acoustic music," Brown said. "He's really a great guy. There's none of that star attitude you might expect from someone who is so accomplished."

Juber, who's been playing professionally since he was 13, released his first solo album, "Solo Flight," in 1990. That record was the first to showcase his finger-style guitar play. Since the first album, Juber has released several additional recordings - all of which have been well received by fans and critics alike - including the top selling "LJ Plays the Beatles."

In addition to his years on tour and in the recording studio with Wings, Juber has also forged an impressive career as a studio musician, working with such performers as ex-Beatles George Harrison and Ringo Starr, as well as Belinda Carlisle, Air Supply, The Monkees and Paul Williams. Juber has written music for television shows including "Roseane" "Happy Days," "Family Ties" and "Beverly Hills 90210." He was also the featured guitarist on "The Young and the Restless" for six years.

It is Juber's work as a composer for the off-Broadway production of "Gilligan's Island " The Musical," which he and his wife, Hope, wrote the score for, that will bring him to Alabama.

The production of "Gilligan's Island," based on the television series written by Hope's father, Sherwood Schwartz, will premiering at Birmingham's Virginia Samford Theatre Friday.

"So it worked out really well, allowing him to come to Anniston to perform," Brown said. "Everything just came together perfectly."

Brown wants all those planning to attend to know that "absolutely all" proceeds from the $15 concert will go to benefit the ongoing construction of the Chief Ladiga Trail - a 33-mile bike and nature trail stretching from the Alabama-Georgia state line to Anniston.

"I've been riding that trail since it first opened," Brown said. "The thing with riding is that you always want it to go further. I'd like to see this thing go all the way through Cleburne County. I've been on the Georgia part and the Alabama part, so I'd really like to see those parts joined together."

But completing the project that began back in 1990 will require more fundraisers like the Saturday concert.

"We need $17,000 to get this thing finished," Brown said. "We're just trying to do our part and hope to raise as much money as we can."

In addition to the concert Saturday evening, Juber will also conduct a free finger-style guitar clinic, 3 p.m. at the Greenbrier Music Shop, located at 1521 Greenbrier Road in Anniston. The clinic in intended for "serious guitar players," Brown said, adding that those who take part should play on an intermediate or skilled level.

For more information about the guitar clinic or the benefit concert, call the Greenbrier Music Shop at 831-7272.  


JSU's part of Ladiga Trail opens
   By Jennifer Ginsberg, Star Staff Writer
       October 22, 2002

    Walkers, bicyclists, a tricyclist and a speed skater broke in Jacksonville State University's new one-mile portion of the Chief Ladiga Trail on Monday.
    JSU's portion of the trail connects the trail between Alabama Highway 204 and Mountain Street.
    But, as Pete Conroy, Director of JSU's Environmental Policy and Information Center, said to an audience of more than 50 people, "Trails are not just about connecting places, but also people."
    Flora Fortenberry and Margie Steed were neighbors who met on the trail and continue to use it.
    It's been about a month since Fortenberry has biked the seven miles from Piedmont to Jacksonville.  But, the 75-year-old often walks on the trail with her husband, Clayton, 78.
    Steed, who uses a wheelchair because of injuries caused by an accident, still gets out on the trail.
    "I advise you all to get out on the trail," she said. "I've enjoyed all the time I've spent on the trail."
    Steed was awarded the Governor's Award for Outstanding Service to the State of Alabama for her strong and consistent support of the Chief Ladiga Trail.
    In addition to the friendships made on the trail, the trail also makes for healthier people.
    Jack Hataway and Miriam Gains of the Alabama Department of Health pointed out that 60 percent of Alabamians are overweight and that Alabama is one of the top three fattest states in the nation.
    Projects such as the Chief Ladiga Trail "improve physical activity levels," Hataway said.
    Losing weight also decreases the rate for health problems such as self-reported diabetes and arthritis, Hataway said.  Plus, physical activity helps increase mental alertness.
    In 1999, JSU was awarded a state grant to complete its segment across campus.  JSU contributed $40,000, which exceeded the 20 percent expected match.
    "Dr. (Bill) Meehan has been a champion for this project," Conroy said, reminiscing about sitting with JSU's president at a picnic table in the middle of the woods, mapping out the trail plan.
    JSU's portion of the trail is home to the only public water fountain on the entire trail.  It also has a separate parking area, kiosk and raised seating area.
    The trail spans 33 miles through Calhoun and Cleburne counties and is fully paved.

Ladiga Trail brings cities together
        By Ashley Hall, Star Staff Writer
        April 27, 2001

    Residents of Anniston, Weaver, Jacksonville and Piedmont often have different and sometimes conflicting interests and concerns. But there is one common thread that literally binds them together. That is the Chief Ladiga Trail, which runs from Anniston north to Cleburne County.
    Thursday evening, people from all over the county came together under a tent in the middle of the Jacksonville State University campus for the annual town meeting to address the needs and successes of the trail. The meeting was led by Pete Conroy, who serves as chairman of the Chief Ladiga Recreation Trail Board.
    "This is the most cooperative project I have ever seen undertaken in Calhoun County," said Calhoun County Commissioner Robert Downing.
    Representatives from each city along the trail shared their goals and visions for the trail's improvement.
    Jacksonville State University President Dr. William Meehan was on hand to announce the construction of JSU's section of trail, which will slice right through campus. This section is the final link to join the entire Calhoun County run. "It will happen," Meehan said of construction. "It didn't happen as fast as I had wanted, but it will happen." Construction is set to begin this summer.
    Glen Berry, co-chair of the Cleburne County section of trail, announced the Ladiga Trail in his county will be open in about two weeks, although some bridges still need to be finished. Completion of the trail in Cleburne County will eventually allow the trail to run from Anniston all the way to Atlanta.
    Another vital addition to the trail should be public bathrooms, participants at the meeting decided. There are facilities on the Weaver and Piedmont sections, and there are newly opened bathrooms at Germania Springs, which is on Jacksonville's part of the trail. "We are open for business as of this week," said Jacksonville Director of Parks and Recreation Bo Batey. Anniston recently applied for a state grant to construct the much-needed facilities.
    Anniston also has plans to expand parking at the head of the trail and to plant more trees, said Tammy Chapman, Anniston Director of Parks and Recreation.
    Representatives from Weaver described the city's plan for a police bicycle patrol along their two-and-a-half mile stretch. "I'm hoping that each and every city and community from one end to the other, will do the same and make it a better place for everybody to enjoy," said Weaver Police Officer Michael Kane.
    Piedmont Mayor Charlie Fagan reminded the meeting participants about the Ninth Annual Cheaha Challenge bike race that begins on Piedmont's section of the trail May 6.
    The improvements and maintenance of the trail depends greatly on grants and donations. For instance, the three bikes for Weaver's bike patrol were donated by local residents Jim Pettus and Clint Fresh. Especially in the current climate of cutbacks, funding is scarce. Representatives from each section are always seeking funding assistance for community centers and kiosks to go along the trail. Right now, Piedmont, Anniston and Jacksonville all are competing for money from the same grant source. But transcending competition, the attitude of the trail supporters seemed to suggest that each knows that what is good for the trail at one end will improve the trail throughout.

University gets $196k grant to complete Ladiga Rail Trail
       By Buffy Smith
       February 9, 2000

    The Chief Ladiga Trail will soon pass through the JSU campus, thanks to a new federal grant.
    "This is a project that really dates back to our University master plan," said Don Thacker, Vice President of Administrative and Business Affairs. We were waiting on the city to finish their part of the track."
    The trail is Alabama's first extended rails-to-trails project.  It travels 33 miles through the countryside of Calhoun and Cleburne counties and it connects Piedmont, Jacksonville, Weaver and Anniston.  It wanders through Piedmont and stops short at Highway 204 on the JSU campus.  It picks up again on Mountain Street.
    Thacker said that JSU wanted to complete the trail, but first needed to raise $200,000 to cover the costs.  Governor Don Siegelman and G.M. Roberts, Director of the Alabama Department of Transportation, pushed for a federal enhancement grant to help JSU complete the project.  The grant was approved and JSU was awarded more than $196,000.
    In addition to creating a pavement track, the money will be used to build a kiosk in the center of Paul Carpenter Village.  The kiosk will serve as a rest stop and JSU information booth for trail users.  Thacker said the JSU portion of the Chief Ladiga Trail should be complete by spring.



Environmental Policy Information Center
Jacksonville State University
700 Pelham Road North, Suite 246 Martin,
Jacksonville, AL 36265-1602
Telephone #: (256) 782-5681...Fax #: (256) 782-5817
All photos on this page provided by Anita Stewart.
Site design by Laurel Design Copyright 2004


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