Fort Oglethorpe trail's name recognizes Smith's dedication

Fort Oglethorpe trail's name recognizes Smith's dedication

June 24th, 2011 by Mike O'Neal in Catoosa

Fort Oglethorpe officials join Councilman Johnnie "Red" Smith and his wife June for the unveiling of a dedication sign to Smith on one of the city's walking trails. Photo by Mike O'Neal

Johnnie "Red" Smith has dedicated years of service to the City of Fort Oglethorpe. He has been a patrol officer, chief of police and city councilman.

He has also been an adamant supporter and frequent user of the city's walking trail, particularly the section between Battlefield Parkway at Walgreen's and Gilbert-Stephenson Park.

"It is very special to me," Smith said.

He told how when his wife, June, was battling cancer, he often came to walk, cry and have time to himself along the paved path that meanders through the city.

"I don't know what I'd have done without that trail," he said.

Earlier this year the city council adopted a resolution to name where the pathway parallels Black Branch in Smith's honor.

A brief ceremony to dedicate the trail in recognition of Smith's years of dedication - and near death following an in-the-line-of-duty gunshot wound - to his fellow citizens was held immediately before last week's council meeting.

"Johnnie nearly gave his life in service to this city," Mayor Lynn Long said as a sign was unveiled where the trail crosses City Hall Drive. "This trail is a very, very tiny token of our appreciation to him."

What began in 2002 as a short stretch of paved pathway has grown to become a 12-foot-wide concrete ribbon that will soon stretch from the Chickamauga Battlefield Park and Hutcheson Hospital, past Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School to Chickamauga Creek.

Work is currently under way at the western end, where the trail will circle the polo field/parade ground used by troopers with the 6th Cavalary, and will soon extend eastward to Chickamauga Creek, where a canoe and kayak put-in point is planned.

Even as the community's favorite walking, jogging, strolling and bicycling thoroughfare continues to grow, its roots remain anchored along Black Branch, where wildlife - herons, turtles, foxes and deer - come to town.

"It is not just a walking trail," Smith said. "It is where I walk with God and thank Him for every new day I have with my wife."