published Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Grants to benefit 2 greater Chattanooga area trails

Two trails in North Georgia are among more than a dozen that will benefit from $1.66 million in maintenance and construction grants, according to a news release.

"Our state's enthusiasm for hitting the trails and paddling the rivers is growing," Becky Kelley, director of the division of parks, recreation and historic sites for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said in the release. "These new grants will help lay more paths to family fun and outdoor exercise."

Sixteen Georgia trails were identified to receive the funds, including the Trail of Tears in Ringgold, Ga., and the Lower Chattooga River Canoe and Kayak Trail in Lyerly, Ga.

More people are using the Chattooga River trail in recent years thanks to the Coosa River Basin Initiative, which has reduced pollution in the Chattooga River, local leaders said.

"It's kind of in its youth," said Lyerly Mayor Josh Wyatt. "We think it'll bring people in from outlying areas, but also give people in Chattooga County something to do."

Wyatt said the city will use the grant money to build a new bridge and trailhead at Taliaferro Springs and install restrooms and signs at the Lyerly Dam trailhead.

Ringgold will receive $150,000 to extend existing trails, add a canoe ramp and do other maintenance. The trail follows the same path as the historic 1838 Trail of Tears.

"It's a pretty historic little area," said Ringgold Councilman Nick Millwood. "It just meanders right along the creek."

Millwood is an outdoor enthusiast himself and is excited about the grant.

"They're doing some great stuff," he said.

The grants are part of the federal Recreational Trails Program, which provides funds to states to develop and maintain recreational trails. The money comes from taxes on gasoline, and the program is administered under guidance from the Federal Highway Administration.

"Any government entity can apply for the Recreational Trails Program grant," said John Campbell, recreational program manager for the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.

Some of the grant money will be used to reroute horse and mountain bike trails in the national forest's Frady Branch trail system near Toccoa, Ga., and to maintain off-road motorcycle and ATV trails in the Houston Valley and Cohutta systems near Dalton, Ga., and Chatsworth, Ga.

State, federal and local governments are eligible to apply for the funds, but every recipient is required to match a portion of the grant.

Contact staff writer Lindsay Burkholder at 423-757-6592 or lburkholder@timesfreepress.com.

about Lindsay Burkholder...

Lindsay Burkholder is originally from Winston-Salem, N.C. She graduated from Covenant College in May 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. While at Covenant she spent time writing for and editing the news section of the school newspaper, The Bagpipe. Burkholder also attended the World Journalism Institute in New York City in 2011.

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