COVINGTON, Ga. — A donation from an area cycling club has put Newton Trails within reach of a funding goal that will allow it to add two former railroad bridges to the Cricket Frog Trail.
And completion of the two temporary bridge surfaces could lead to opening an additional five miles of continuous paved trail, said Newton Trails board chairman Duane Ford.
The Covington Conyers Cycling Club recently donated $2,500 to Newton Trails to bring it to $22,400 of a $25,000 fund-raising goal.
Ford said in a fund-raising plea the nonprofit plans to use the money to place temporary surfaces on bridges over East Bear Creek and West Bear Creek.
“Because Newton Trails has received contributions in excess of half of our goal, the board of directors has approved half of the project,” Ford said. “That is, volunteers will soon be putting a plank surface and guardrails on the East Bear Creek bridge.”
He said the eight-foot-wide wooden plank deck would be placed on top of existing railroad ties on the East Bear Creek trestle with guardrails along the sides.
“The purpose is to create a temporary, safe surface for pedestrians and bicycles to cross on,” he said. “We say ‘temporary’ because a better and more permanent bridge will eventually need to be built, when we are able to find the funds to do so.”
Ford said when Newton Trails raises the final $2,600 to reach the full goal of $25,000, the nonprofit’s board likely will authorize the same project for the bridge crossing over West Bear Creek.
Completion of the two temporary bridge surfaces “offers the potential of opening an additional five miles of continuous paved trail from east of East Bear Creek to the eastern shore of the Alcovy River,” he said.
The Alcovy River trestle, however, is closed and will remain closed until it can be permanently renovated into a safe pedestrian and cycling bridge, Ford said.
“Newton Trails is in the process of finding a company that can deliver the engineering and design work needed as a first step in that renovation,” he said.
Any funds left over from construction of the temporary bridges are planned for trail signage, trail maintenance equipment, or amenities such as benches, pet waste stations, trash cans or bicycle racks, Ford said.
Funds raised in 2020 will be used for the renovation of the Dried Indian Creek trestle bridge “as promised,” Ford said.
Construction on that bridge off Emory Street near downtown Covington should begin this month, he said.
Newton Trails began leasing a 15-mile section of unused railroad from Norfolk Southern in 2016 for development of the Trail, which runs for 15 miles from Washington Street in Covington to Zeigler Road between Mansfield and Newborn.
Paved sections include Turner Lake Road to Emory Street, Pace Street to Conyers Street, and Covington Bypass to East End Road, all in Covington; and East Bear Creek to Zeigler Road in east Newton.
Ford said the nonprofit also is working to extend its lease with Norfolk Southern to eventually extend the east end of the Trail through Newborn to the Jasper County line.
Ford said the nonprofit is negotiating for the extension of the lease of the railroad right-of-way from Zeigler Road through Newborn to the Jasper County line.
“If we are able to complete that deal, we will be a long way from paving that section as the rails and ties will need to be removed, trees and brush cleared, and the trail bed graded and compacted before paving can be done,” Ford said.
For more information on Newton Trails, visit www.newtontrails.org.