A tentative grand opening date of Aug. 17 has been set for the Tanglefoot Trail, the nearly 45-mile long walking and bike trail that begins in New Albany and ends in Houston.
The 10-foot wide asphalt trail follows the old GM&O rail corridor and begins in New Albany at Bankhead Street.
After eight years in the planning and development stage, it is exciting news that the trail finally will open to the public.
The not-so-exciting news is that much remains to be done in New Albany to make the trail entrance a tourist draw. Plans for a gateway building in New Albany, sort of a welcome center, are on hold. There is no money to build it.
The trail work so far has been paid for mostly by the federal government with a $9.6 million grant. The state has contributed $350,000 and a $100,000 recreational trails grant has been received from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. Some private businesses and individuals have committed to donations.
In addition to the asphalt trail, four small restroom/water fountain facilities have been built in Ingomar, Ecru, Algoma and Houlka.
Other planned gateway buildings in Pontotoc and Houston have not been constructed.
We are fortunate to have the trail. It can be a wonderful thing and a major tourist draw. Similar trails around the country draw thousands of people.
But it is unfortunate that we do not have the physical facilities and landscaping and general cleanup along the trail in the city in place to put our best foot forward. First impressions are important and we need to make certain the visitor experience in New Albany is a pleasant one.