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Walkers, bikers may see benefit from grants

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Board of Commissioners approved Tuesday night requests to apply for two grants that could benefit walkers and cyclists.

Commissioners first approved a proposal from Special Projects Coordinator Cheryl Delk to apply for a $100,000 Georgia Recreational Trails Program Grant through the Department of Natural Resources. The money would be used to connect the city of Porterdale to an existing trail loop within the Porterdale Yellow River Park to the Turkey Creek Yellow River Trail from Turner Lake Park. It would cover the installation of approximately 0.4 miles of a 12-foot wide concrete trail and potentially the additional cost of providing accessible parking, bike racks and waste receptacles at a trailhead for the county multi-use trail system.

A 20 percent match is required, to be split between Porterdale and Newton County, with each paying $12,500, either in cash or in-kind services. Maintenance and operation of the trail would be the responsibility of Porterdale.

The county also agreed to apply for a Safe Routes to School grant through the Georgia Department of Transportation on behalf of the Newton County Board of Education. The purpose of the Safe Routes to School program is to encourage children to bike or walk to school and to provide a safe way to do that, said Kathy Garber, the school system's grants coordinator.

"What typically happens is the school system builds a school in the middle of nowhere and there are no sidewalks, and then thousands of homes get built nearby," Garber said of the need for better access for pedestrians.

The requested amount is $316,700.05, with no local match required. The money would fund the installation of sidewalks, painted pedestrian crosswalks and IRWLS, or in-road warning light systems, at five schools. IRWLS are in-road lights that flash yellow to alert motorists that a pedestrian is crossing the street and can be seen from up to 200 yards away. Pedestrian crossing signs would also have flashing lights. The lights are activated by pressing a button before crossing the street.

Schools with a large number of students living within walking or biking distance, 2 miles or fewer, were selected to benefit. Those schools are: West Newton Elementary and Veterans Memorial Middle School on Brown Bridge Road, Fairview Theme School and Clements Middle School on Fairview Road, and Live Oak Elementary School on Kirkland Road.

The grant application is due Tuesday. Recipients will be announced in March. If approved, the project will take about a year to complete, Garber said.