If all goes according to plan, bicyclists will soon have a network of trails and dedicated bike lanes to use for travel in 11 Middle Georgia counties.
Wednesday morning, members of the Regional Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan Advisory Committee held their last face-to-face meeting to discuss the working draft of their five-year plan before taking it to the public for input.
The committee is made up of more than 60 representatives from public and private agencies across Middle Georgia whose work involves bicycle and pedestrian issues. The planning process will culminate with a final draft due to the state in June.
This is the second five-year plan shepherded by the Middle Georgia Regional Commission, funded in part by the Georgia Department of Transportation. The original came in 2005 and ended recently with several items left “unaccomplished.”
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“The first one was a little too ambitious,” said Phil Clark, the senior planner on the project. “This one is still ambitious, but it’s more plausible.”
The emphasis now, he said, is on local planning, meaning each community works to plan its component and then shares it with the regional committee, which helps oversee development and marketing.
“We’re looking at ways to make it so you could ride from Juliette to Hawkinsville,” he said, pointing at a map marked with red and yellow squiggles crisscrossing their way from Putnam County to Wilkinson County to Crawford and Pulaski counties through Bibb and Jones counties.
Of particular interest to Clark is the Macon-Milledgeville Rail-to-Trail, an effort to convert an abandoned CSX rail line to connect Macon’s Ocmulgee Heritage Trail to Milledgeville’s proposed Fishing Creek Trail.
“It might not happen in my lifetime,” he said, “but this is something we can leave our children and grandchildren. This is something they can look at and say, ‘My granddad helped make a difference.’’’
Though energetic and passionate about the plan, Clark is retiring Friday. While he says he may remain involved on some level, he said the regional commission’s leadership will keep the plan moving forward without missing a beat. The key will be getting local buy-in and support, but he said that once it starts, the forward momentum will be too hard to stop.
“People will see these and they’ll ask, ‘Why didn’t this happen sooner?’’’
To contact writer Chris Horne, call 744-4494.