It’s an exciting time in the world of New Albany and Union County tourism with the announcement last week that the Tanglefoot Trail is on its way to becoming a reality.
The state announced that the last funding piece, $4.5 million in federal money administered through the state Department of Transportation, is being provided for the trail project.
By next January, we expect bids will be being taken on construction of the 44.5-mile walking and bike trail that will link New Albany, Ecru, Pontotoc, Algoma, Houlka and Houston. The project, which will cost nearly $10 million, mostly in federal money, is expected to be complete sometime in 2012.
The trail, which will follow the former GM&O rail line, will be made of asphalt 10 feet wide. An equestrian trail will parallel the trail at appropriate places.
Why all of this excitement about a bike and hiking trail? Because a similar trail in Hattiesburg attracts 100,000 people a year. And 25 percent of those visitors are not from the local area.
Trailheads for the trail, with 1,200-square-foot buildings with restrooms, maps, bike rentals and a gift shop, will be located in New Albany, Pontotoc and Houston. They will be staffed with volunteers.
Now that the project is going forward, it’s time to improve what visitors will see when they start down the trail from the Trailhead, expected to be located near the Union County Library. Some of the route in New Albany is in serious need of being cleaned up and redeveloped.
The Tanglefoot Trail has the potential to provide a major boost to the city’s economy. But only if the visitor experience is a pleasant one.
There’s work to be done and time is short.