A couple of years ago local officials predicted the Tanglefoot Trail would be completed by the summer or fall of this year.
Fortunately for New Albany, the finish date of the 44.5-mile walking and bike trail is now pegged at early next year.
Why is the delay a good thing? Because so far we don’t think New Albany has done the things it needs to do to be ready for the visitors the trail will bring to our town. And we have not committed to a major tourism promotion plan to support the trail.
The trail will link New Albany, Ecru, Pontotoc, Algoma, Houlka and Houston. Trailhead facilities, with restrooms, maps, etc., will be located in New Albany, Pontotoc and Houston.
The trail, which will follow the former GM&O rail line, will be made of asphalt 10 feet wide. A similar trail in Hattiesburg attracts 100,000 people a year. And 25 percent of those visitors are not from the local area.
The New Albany trailhead building is expected to be located near the Union County Library. Some of the area in the city is in need of redevelopment — or at least cleaned up.
The trail is being paid for by a $9.6 million grant from the federal government, $350,000 in state money and a $100,000 recreational tails grant from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
This gift of this major tourism project in our community can provide a major boost to the city’s economy. We need a plan to get visitors here and to be certain what they see along the trail is not a rundown mess, but the best we can put together.
First impressions are important, and we need to make certain the visitor experience in New Albany is a pleasant one.