Project leaders for the much-anticipated Tanglefoot Trail announced Wednesday that its construction is now fully underway.
The trail, which will run 44.5 miles of abandoned railroad corridor, from New Albany in Union County to Houston in Chickasaw County, is expected to be paved by early 2013, officials with the GM&O Rails-To-Trails Recreational District announced.
The project is partially funded through a $9.6 million federallyfunded transportation enhancement grant. The grant is administered by the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
Other funding includes $350,000 in state-appropriated funds and a $100,000 recreational trails program grant from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
Betsey Hamilton, chairman for the district’s board of directors, said the trail will have a significant economic impact on the Northeast Mississippi region.
“As we seek to provide economic opportunities for the communities along the trail, the Tanglefoot Trail will provide people of all ages an attractive place to bike, walk, jog and simply enjoy the outdoors,” Hamilton said. “As we prepare for our visitors, we hope local citizens will begin to consider ways to capitalize on this opportunity by offering restaurants, cafes, bike shops, B&B’s, campgrounds and even art and crafts along the trail in close proximity.”
The first phase of the project, which began last week in New Albany, includes clearing the former GM&O railroad, bridge repair and trail construction. Work will continue south until it is completed in Houston.
The second phase of the project will include the design, development and construction of welcome centers in New Albany, Pontotoc and Houston, along with rest area facilities in Ecru, Algoma and Houlka.
Board members say they hope to locate an appropriate area for an equestrian trail as the project progresses.
Randy Kelley, executive director for Three Rivers Planning and Development District, said that the trail will preserve the corridor should a railroad company need it in the future.
“The Rails to Trails project keeps the railway corridor intact in case of future needs for rail transport, utility and other use,” Kelley said. “By preserving that corridor, the local governments of our area have done a far-reaching thing to ensure future economic development opportunities.”