August 22, 2013

‘A lot of fun’

Mount Rachel trail now open

Charles Oliver

— Dalton officials opened the new 1.6-mile walking and biking trail on Mount Rachel on Wednesday, and it has already gotten a big thumbs up from some local outdoor enthusiasts.

“I rode it this morning, and it’s a lot of fun,” said Matt Smith, vice president of the Northwest Georgia chapter of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA).

“There’s a fair amount of climbing. It’s probably beyond a beginner level, but it’s not too technical. I think people will enjoy it,” he added. “Anybody who works downtown or anywhere close to here can go and put two miles in, three miles in during their lunch break. It’s easily accessible.”

Dalton Parks and Recreation Department Director Steve Card said he expects the trail will get plenty of use from city residents. But he added that officials believe the trail will become a regional attraction.

“We hope that people from some of our surrounding counties will start coming here to ride this trail and walk this trail. It has got a great view,” said Card. “And after they are finished here, we hope that they will go downtown or to some other parts of our city and eat at our restaurants and shop in some of our stores.”

Officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the trailhead on Park Street, just off of Rachel Street. The trailhead features restrooms, a water fountain, parking and bicycle racks, and covered picnic tables. A second trailhead on Chenille Street features parking, bicycle racks and a water fountain.

The ribbon cutting was the culmination of more than two years of work and planning on the project, which was funded by $350,000 in state and federal grants.

“It’s very exciting to see this day finally arrive,” said City Council member Denise Wood. “(City Administrator) Ty Ross did a great job in locating the grants, and we had great cooperation between public works, the rec department and Dalton Utilities to make this happen.”

Part of the trail, including the Park Street trailhead, is on Dalton Utilities property. In addition, Shaw Industries donated 24 acres for the project.

“That’s basically the north half, and it would have been impossible to do this without their help,” Ross said.

The trail is part of a larger plan to revitalize the Crown Mill area, which began three years ago when the City Council used part of its community development block grant money to shore up the Hamilton House, the city’s oldest brick home, which had a dangerously bulging wall.

The Park Street trailhead faces a planned pocket park on Rachel Street, which is itself part of a larger planned greenway — a biking and walking path — that will link Selvidge Street and Chattanooga Avenue. Officials say the greenway will have benches and trash cans along its route and will be well lighted.

“When you look down at Lakeshore Park and the work the rec department has done there, it’s amazing the impact that it has had on that neighborhood,” said Mayor David Pennington. “The houses are looking better. People are taking more pride.”

Pennington said he believes the trail and other projects planned for the Crown Mill area will have a similar impact there.