Macon shows off its Ocmulgee Heritage Trail

A partnership between 11 counties aims to improve and promote facilities along Ocmulgee River

efarlow@macon.comJuly 23, 2013 

Representatives from 10 counties along the Ocmulgee River stepped off a NewTown Macon trolley Monday and walked across Porter Pavilion in Amerson River Park. They looked over the railing, down to the Ocmulgee River, and took photos. A man in a canoe floated by as the group watched.

They were in Macon for a meeting of the newly formed Ocmulgee River Water Trail Partnership.

Charlotte Gillis, with the National Park Service, said the framework for the partnership is not yet finalized. However, it aims to promote connectivity among 11 counties along the Ocmulgee River and boost economic development and tourism in those counties.

The goal of Tuesday’s meeting was to organize the partnership’s mission and goals, and the tour showed the other counties the amenities Macon already has along the river -- the Spring Street entrance to the riverwalk, parts of the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail and Amerson River Park.

The partnership is “all about building the success of the water trail” by building new facilities and improving upon existing facilities, hosting events and activities and attracting more tourists, Gillis said.

Gillis said one of the benefits of a partnership among the counties is that, when one county holds an event at the river, it can notify the other counties to promote the event and possibly hold another event in conjunction with it.

The partnership began when Karen Bailey, director of Classic Main Street in Pulaski County, contacted Gillis, who is part of the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program in the National Park Service.

“I was seeking assistance for rehabilitating our river park,” Bailey said.

Bailey wanted to renovate parts of Mile Branch Landing in Pulaski County and build a river trail from Mile Branch to Uchee Shoals Landing, another park along the river in Pulaski County.

Bailey said other counties became interested in improving facilities and recreation along the river, so she invited Houston, Bleckley and Twiggs counties to be part of a four-county partnership originally named the Blue Trail Partnership.

“Why limit it to four counties?” Bailey said of the decision to expand the partnership to 11 counties.

The 11 counties in the Ocmulgee Water Trail Partnership are Pulaski, Bibb, Twiggs, Bleckley, Houston, Dodge, Wilcox, Telfair, Jeff Davis, Coffee and Ben Hill, Gillis said. Representatives from Coffee County were not at the meeting Tuesday.

To contact writer Emily Farlow, call 744-4225.

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