Houston County and the city of Perry are looking into the possibility of building a 7.5 mile multipurpose nature trail along Big Indian Creek.
If fully developed, it would include a paved path for walking, running and bicycling, said Kevin Dye, Perry's director of leisure services. While it's not certain that it will ever get done, the county took a small but important step forward on it Tuesday.
The County Commission approved a contract with Atlantic Coast Consulting to conduct an aerial topography survey of the route and develop a master plan. The $50,000 cost of the contract will be split equally between the city, county and private contributors with an interest in the project.
Perry City Manager Lee Gilmour said one of those contributors is former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, who has long had an interest in developing a trail along the creek and owns some of the property that would be needed.
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"I think it is an outstanding project for the city to do because number one, it will provide access for its residents to a nature area, and second provides a vehicle for people to get out and exercise," Gilmour said.
The trail would begin near the intersection of Courtney Hodges Boulevard at Big Indian Creek and follow the creek all the way to U.S. 341. The county is participating because part of that proposed route is outside the city limits. How the cost of construction might be split up has not been determined.
Perry already has two short nature trails in the area of Courtney Hodges Boulevard and Big Indian Creek. It has a long-range plan to develop 36 miles of trails throughout the city, basically connecting the main parks.
Even a rough estimate of the cost of the Big Indian Creek trail cannot be determined because it could vary widely, Dye said. The topography survey will help determine the cost because it would show what kind of infrastructure might be needed. If extensive boardwalk is needed to traverse wetland areas, Dye said, that would make it a lot more expensive. The survey will also help determine which side of the creek the trail would be on, and therefore would determine the land that would be needed.
Gilmour said the hope is that land owners will donate the right of way. If that happens, then even if the city can't afford to build the trail at this time the land could be secured to protect it from development and enable construction of the trail in the future. The city could also clear a dirt trail to start with and pave it over a period of time to spread out the cost.
The trail that already extends partly along the route from Rotary Park is Weleetka Trail. The city has a grant to extend Weleetka to the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter, and the proposed 7.5-mile trail would branch off it, Gilmour said.
The project would also include clearing Big Indian Creek to make it navigable by kayaks and other small boats, Dye said. He has tried to go down it in a kayak himself and said it is currently too obstructed with fallen trees and limbs.
The contract approved by the county includes holding public meetings to discuss the project. Dye said getting a map of the typography is an important move to getting the project going.
"Until we know what the topography looks like, it's hard to plan," he said.
One person who likes the idea is Christopher Billups, who was riding his bicycle down Weleetka Trail on Wednesday. He had only recently moved to Perry and was using the trail for the first time. He was excited when told another 7.5 miles could be added to it.
"I think that would be pretty awesome," he said. "I would ride it every day."