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South River Trail will soon connect Panola Mt., monastery

Biking, hiking trail in Rockdale seen as economic driver

The South River Trail in Rockdale County will likely come to completion in about a year. Trail enthusiasts see the route as an economic generator for Rockdale County, much like the Silver Comet Trail that runs from Cobb County to the Alabama state line. (Special Photo)

The South River Trail in Rockdale County will likely come to completion in about a year. Trail enthusiasts see the route as an economic generator for Rockdale County, much like the Silver Comet Trail that runs from Cobb County to the Alabama state line. (Special Photo)

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This map provided by Rockdale County shows the trail route and portions that have been funded and completed. Sections of the trail already completed are Alexander Lake to Daniels Bridge Road and from Daniels Bridge Road to South Rockdale Park, along with the Lorraine Trail Head, located at Ga. Highway 138 and the South River.

CONYERS — Construction of the South River Trail is close to completion and by this time next year people will be able to bike or walk from Panola Mountain State Park to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit.

For cycling enthusiast Eddie Shirey the trail will also offer an economic boost that will reach out beyond the 13-mile-long, 12-foot-wide concrete path.

The Oversight Committee for Rockdale County’s special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST, will consider recommending the final $125,000 to be spent on trail construction with final approval expected afterwards from the Board of Commissioners. Since the opening of the trail’s Pole Creek Bridge at Alexander Lake in 2008 the bulk of funding for construction has come from GDOT’s Transportation Enhancement program with matching funds from SPLOST and the PATH Foundation.

Shirey, a past chairman of the Conyers-Covington Cycling Association, said he believes the trail will attract tourists to the community, spur economic growth and enhance property values. He points to a recent study done on the Silver Comet Trail that runs from Cobb County to the Alabama state line and found about 1.9 million people use the trail each year.

“These trails are a huge driver for economic development, and they bring a lot of tourist money into the community,” he said. “Property values have increased closer to the trail. There’s new construction that is occurring close to the trail that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.”

The Silver Comet Trail Economic Impact Analysis and Planning Study were paid for by the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission and GDOT. Among other findings, the study showed about $47 million is pumped into the local economies along the 61-mile trail.

Shirey said that growth comes from people being attracted to the trails and that the South River Trail can have a similar impact on Rockdale County.

“What I get into when I get out riding at Arabia, is that you see that the longer the trail gets the more riders you get,” he said. “You get these people coming out from other places because we’ve got a lot of trail.

“And where we are right now, we’re 30 miles outside of Atlanta and directly opposite of the Silver Comet,” Shirey continued. “We’re on the opposite side of Atlanta and there’s a trail coming out this way from the Beltline and connects with Panola Park.”

Sections of the trail already completed are Alexander Lake to Daniels Bridge Road and from Daniels Bridge Road to South Rockdale Park, along with the Lorraine Trail Head, located at Ga. Highway 138 and the South River.

Work on the remaining section from Lorraine Trail Head to the Monastery is set to begin soon and be completed by late spring or early summer next year. Andrew Hammer, Rockdale County special projects manager, said the next task will be to find funding to connect the Olde Town Trail to the South River Trail.

The Olde Trail Trail opened in 2011 and currently runs from Nancy Guinn Memorial Library to Johnson Park.