RINCON — Effingham County is a focal point in the Georgia Hi-Lo Trail vision.
Funds are being raised to create a comprehensive master plan to develop a 211-mile paved bicycle trail that would pass through small towns from Union Point to Savannah. The Hi-Lo Trail, which would connect to the 39-mile Firefly Trail that starts in Athens, would include a 26-mile rail corridor in Effingham County.
“It’s an exciting project,” said Sandersville resident Mary Charles Howard, executive director of the Georgia Hi-Lo Trail. “We’ve already gotten a lot of support from the people of Effingham County.”
Howard’s brainchild must have a comprehensive master plan to proceed. Guyton cycling enthusiast Ashley Parker recently raised more than $1,500 for the cause through a birthday fundraiser on his Facebook page.
“I’ve been talking about this trail and people want to know where it’s going to go, how much will cost and how long it will take (to build) — all the details,” Howard said. “We can’t even apply for grants until we have a comprehensive master plan to show all those things.”
Howard is counting on a public-private partnership to fund the $120,000 plan. She has been seeking a total of $60,000 from government entities along the eight-county trail route that will be matched by private donations.
“Luckily, this project has been really well received everywhere,” Howard said. “We haven’t received a ‘no’ from anyone. Everybody has been really positive.
“It hasn’t been something that’s been controversial at all.”
A donation to the project appears to be a good investment. According to Adventure Cycling, bicycle tourists spend an average of $214 per day. That is 6 percent more than other types of tourists.
The City of Guyton, whose bicycle path is set to become part of the trail, donated $3,250 toward the effort. The Effingham County Board of Commissioners will soon be asked to make a similar donation.
“Effingham County has really been a leader in this whole project since the beginning in terms of local outreach and support,” Howard said
The Georgia Hi-Lo Trail’s other counties are Greene, Hancock, Washington, Johnson, Emanuel, Bulloch and Chatham. Its cites include Greensboro, Sparta, Sandersville, Tennille, Wrightsville, Swainsboro, Twin City, Statesboro, Brooklet, Guyton and Savannah.
A GoFundMe page has been established to come up with the remaining private portion of Effingham County’s donation. A video featuring Parker and Guyton can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZjdPA7DckQ.
The comprehensive plan is expected to be completed before the end of 2021.
For more information, call 706-338-8054 or visit www.GeorgiaHiLo.com.