Porterdale OKs trails plan

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

PORTERDALE -- A resolution endorsing a plan for a regional network of bicycling and walking trails was approved by the Porterdale City Council last week.

The council unanimously approved the resolution endorsing the plan drawn up by the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission, with Councilman Mike Harper absent from the Nov. 1 meeting. The NEGRC is asking all jurisdictions -- 12 counties and 54 municipalities -- in the region to either adopt or endorse the plan. The plan is designed to "guide local decision-makers in developing infrastructure and policy solutions to increase the safety and prevalence of walking and bicycling and to enhance connectivity between homes and regionally important destinations throughout northeast Georgia."

The plan was developed by staff members of the NEGRC and a 32-member regional bicycle and pedestrian task force. Serving on the task force from Newton County are Maurice Carter of the Covington/Conyers Cycling Club; Cheryl Delk, special projects coordinator for Newton County, and Randy Vinson, planning director for the city of Covington.

Porterdale's endorsement does not require any financial contribution to the program.

According to NEGRC senior planner John Devine, the endorsement is simply a way for local jurisdictions to indicate

support for the plan for biking and walking on a regional level.

Devine said there is little difference between an endorsement or adoption of the plan.

"An endorsement is kind of a way for a local government to say that 'we are aware of this plan, we support it, we think it's a good idea, but at this point adoption might be more than we are willing to do.'" Devine said. "The endorsement of the resolution is a way to support the plan without fully adopting it."

Devine said that NEGRC was asked by the state Department of Transportation to develop the regional plan for bicycling and walking. Devine said the plan can be used by the DOT as it develops its own transportation plans in the region.

"This plan is a framework for local governments, but it is also a guide for the DOT," Devine said. "They can incorporate it into their designs."

Among other components, the plan includes maps of existing bicycle and pedestrian facilities in the region, a proposed network of trails, project recommendations, planning tools and a strategy for funding and adoption.

"This is a regionwide effort to look at the basic steps to take in improving bicycling and walking within communities," Devine said. "Probably one of the most important things in the plan is that we recommend each community develop its own jurisdictional level bicycling and walking plan."

He said the NEGRC is working on a community plan for Jackson County. With a plan in place, Devine said, communities are prepared to take advantage of opportunities when they come along.

"When resources become available we are ready to act on it rather than having to scramble when it's decision-making time," he said.

To view the complete plan online, go to www.negplanning.org/documents/244.

In addition to Newton, the NEGRC includes Barrow, Clarke, Elbert, Greene, Jackson, Jasper, Madison, Morgan, Oconee, Oglethorpe and Walton counties.