published Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

South Pittsburg rejects park trail grant

By Ryan Lewis/Correspondent

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — It's rare for a small town to reject free money, but South Pittsburg city commissioners said there was just no reason to accept a grant to create a river park bicycle trail.

The grant was for $90,000, officials said, but it would require an $18,000 match from the town.

City Administrator Bently Thomas said the original idea was to build a bicycle trail that would start in Bridgeport, Ala., and run through South Pittsburg, Kimball and Jasper.

The trail eventually would reach Chattanooga, he said.

"The way it was being described, it would take 10 or 12 years [to construct], but you'd be able to get on a bicycle in Bridgeport and ride all the way to Chattanooga," South Pittsburg Mayor Mike Killian said. "I really think this idea has fallen by the wayside."

Killian said he had major problems with accepting the grant because it would help only in the construction of a small length of the trail and wind up costing South Pittsburg a lot of money.

"When we put in for this grant, all the other cities were hot for it," he said. "Kimball was hot for it, Jasper, [Marion County] and Bridgeport. Now, it looks like we're on our own in this thing. I'm not sure proceeding on it is the thing to do. I might as well say that I don't think we should proceed on it."

Because the town already has three walking tracks in place, Killian said, there really is no need for the bicycle trail.

"I don't think it's a necessity, but I'd probably change my mind if we got back into the original plan," he said.

At last week's monthly meeting, no city commissioners made a motion to accept the grant money, so the proposal died.

"We can still apply for any grant we want," Killian said.

Thomas said city leaders might have considered accepting the grant if money already had been spent on the project.

"We don't have any money sunk into this," he said.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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