The Marietta City Council approved this week spending about $63,500 on a 2.7-mile portion of the Kennesaw Mountain to Chattahoochee River walking trail. The federal government is picking up about $254,000 of the total tab of $317,500.
This portion will connect Southern Polytechnic State University and Life University to the trail that drops off at Aviation Park. Ultimately, it will allow walkers and bikers to go from the mountain through the city of Marietta and the Square to the river.
Construction could start as early as November and it’s expected to be finished by 2015. Most of the remainder of the trail has been completed, including portions near Kennesaw Mountain along Old U.S. 41 Highway and Kennesaw Avenue.
About $6.3 million is expected to be spent on the entire 13.5-mile, multi-use trail with the city having paid about 20 percent of that cost. The rest has come from federal government funding.
Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin says the trail has been on the drawing board for between six and seven years. The first portion was done along Kennesaw Avenue between Church Street and Old U.S. 41 Highway.
He says it’s made a difference in creating a more walkable community in the city.
“It’s unbelievable,” Tumlin said. “It wasn’t conducive to walking or bicycling or running whatsoever before.”
SPSU has a growing biking population, said Aaron Fowler, assistant director of university transportation.
Students are seeking transportation alternatives, he said. A car-sharing program on campus has been so popular another vehicle will be added this week.
Fowler expects the trail to be just as popular.
“It’s really going to help better connect our students and staff that are pedestrians and bicyclists to Life University, the (Cobb County Transit) transfer center and the Square,” he said.
But it won’t just be students who reap the benefits, said Steve Fitzgerald, a cyclist from west Cobb.
Fitzgerald hit the pavement with his wife and 12-year-old grandson near Kennesaw Mountain on Friday. He’s put almost 10,000 miles on his bike since the Silver Comet Trail, a 61.5-mile trail that starts in Smyrna, opened.
“That really kicked off a lot for us as far as our exercising,” Fitzgerald said.
When the portion of the multi-use trail opened near Kennesaw Mountain, Fitzgerald says his routine changed. Also an avid hiker, he bikes to the mountain for a hike with his wife on the weekends and rides about 25 miles on the trail three nights a week.
It’s like getting a two-for-one deal, he said.
“The Silver Comet Trail was great and we’ll never abandon that, but we do like the best of both worlds,” Fitzgerald said.
He says it “spans generations” and brings families together and out of the house.
“I see so many families out on these trails that, ordinarily, what would they be doing?” Fitzgerald said. “(They’d be) at the mall or something like that.”