published Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Walker County receives federal grant for trailhead, barn


by Andy Johns

BY THE NUMBERS

$225,000: Welcome Center at McLemore Cove, Walker County

$500,000: Battlefield Parkway multiuse trail, Fort Oglethorpe

$500,000: Dalton Greenway Project

$500,000: Downtown pedestrian improvements, Dahlonega

$400,000: Court Street extension, Pickens County

$375,000: Streetscape Phase I, Blue Ridge

$225,000: Streetscape Phase II, Blairsville

Source: Georgia Department of Transportation

A federal grant will help Walker County refurbish a barn and establish a trailhead to give mountain bikers, hikers and horseback riders another reason to visit the county, officials say.

“I want Walker County to be a destination for quite a few things,” said Bebe Heiskell, Walker County’s sole commissioner. “There are people who live here that want to [use the trails,] but it’s the tourists especially.”

County crews will use $225,000 from a federal transportation grant to renovate a historic barn near Davis Crossroads, south of Flintstone, and make it a starting point for trail riders and walkers, giving access to existing trails on Lookout Mountain.

Though the barn and trailhead are officially designated a “Welcome Center,” Walker County Coordinator David Ashburn said the project will be a far cry from the asphalt parking lots along the interstates.

“It’s designed to be a place where hikers or bikers or horseback riders can stop and water their horses or have a picnic,” he said. “It’s not a traditional welcome center in the way you think of a welcome center.”

Plans call for the barn to have a place for horses to drink, a changing area for hikers coming straight from work and a rest area for bikers and hikers.

The trail will run from the barn to the Estill Springs Trailhead and connect to the existing trail network on Lookout Mountain.

Mohamed Arafa, a spokesman with the Georgia Department of Transportation, said renovations to the barn and building at the trailhead will be handled by the county, and any expenses above the federal grant must come from the county’s coffers.

“We are just the middleman,” he said.

Heiskell said the trailhead could boost Walker County’s image among outdoor enthusiasts. Over the last several years, Walker County has gone from practically zero trails to about 60 miles for bikes, horses and hikers, she noted.

“We’ve been working slowly to put together trails,” she said. “We have truly wild areas that you usually can’t find around a big city.”

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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