Newest stretch of Ocmulgee Heritage Trail officially open

hgoodridge@macon.comApril 2, 2013 

The newest stretch of the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail is ready for joggers or anyone looking for a calming stroll along historic Riverside Cemetery.

Officials, developers, and members of community organizations gathered at the cemetery Tuesday to officially open about a half-mile stretch of trail that runs along Riverside Drive at the edge of the cemetery from Madison Street. The 10-foot-wide path heads northeast to a creek called Vineville Branch, east of Interstate 75.

The section is the first on the final length of trail stretching north on the Ocmulgee River’s western bank toward Amerson River Park. Construction took only five months, but the planning started years ago.

Peter Dennis, a member of Riverside Cemetery’s board of directors, said they’ve been discussing the trail since 1998.

Bibb County first sought federal funding for the work in 2007, securing $635,000 for the project. NewTown Macon gave an additional $158,000.

“What’s happened here is another reason to love Macon,” Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart said. “We are very proud.”

The Riverside Cemetery portion of the trail is part of a loftier goal to make the trail nearly five miles where people can walk, jog or bike from Amerson River Park to the Ocmulgee National Monument. One of the next hurdles will be extending it through the upcoming interchange construction at Interstates 75 and 16.

Macon Mayor Robert Reichert praised cemetery officials for their forward thinking, using the cemetery “not just for funerals and times of grief.”

“We want people here,” said Janet Walker, chairwoman of the Historic Riverside Cemetery Conservancy. “It was designed as a park. ... To have the trail here is part of that philosophy.”

Walker reminded those in attendance Tuesday that while they enjoy visitors, “we’d also like for you to come and stay for eternity.”

To contact writer Harold Goodridge, call 744-4382.

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