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Porterdale Yellow River Park gets planning aid from National Park Service

Historic Porterdale Mill on the Yellow River 

Historic Porterdale Mill on the Yellow River 

PORTERDALE -- The Porterdale Yellow River Park project, which is envisioned as a way to link recreation areas in Newton and Rockdale counties via trails and the Yellow River, will get some help in the planning process thanks to the National Park Service.

The Newton County Trail PATH Foundation Inc., in conjunction with other local organizations, applied for the assistance from the NPS Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program in August. The Trail PATH Foundation learned last week that the Porterdale Yellow River Park was one of six projects in the Southeast and the only one in Georgia to be selected to receive the technical assistance.

According to the application, Porterdale owns 27 acres along the Yellow River that it plans to develop as a park that will include walking and biking trails, the Historic Train Depot trail head, a nature trail along the river, ballfields, picnic areas and a boat launch and landing area that will tie a planned blueway for canoeists, kayakers and rafters along the river to the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers. Also included is the Turkey Creek/Yellow River trail that is planned by Newton County to connect the Yellow River Park to Turner Lake Park in Covington.

Porterdale Mayor Bobby Hamby said development of Porterdale Yellow River Park would eventually have a significant economic impact on the town.

"I think it will be a tremendous boost to the town because I think it will bring people in from all around the region," Hamby said. "There's not another place that I'm aware of that has the kind of access to the river that we have in downtown Porterdale."

Maurice Carter, chairman of the board of directors for the Newton Trail -- PATH Foundation, said National Parks Service assistance will benefit the Porterdale Yellow River Park project in several ways: providing practical experience gained through projects in other communities; sharing design practices and approaches used in the development of other blueways; and facilitating cooperation between the Trail -- PATH Foundation and numerous other stakeholders in the project so that they come to a shared vision.

Carter said the park service will also be able to help project planners break the project into practical steps and provide advice and expertise on acquiring funding through private and public resources and then matching phases of the project to the funding that is available. Carter said project planners also hope to leverage grants already received by matching them to development phases. Carter said he is encouraged that the National Park Service saw the importance of the Porterdale Yellow River Park project.

"This reinforces the idea that we are on to something and have unique resources in Porterdale," he said.

Assistance from the National Park Service will also mean that residents can have a more concrete vision of what the park will eventually encompass.

"Part of the output of this will be, where we have conceptual drawings now, we will have more detailed drawings that people can look at and get excited about," Carter said.

Joshua Moore with the National Park Service said their assistance could also include marketing and ensuring that the park plan meets national standards.

Parts of the Yellow River Park already in place include:

A quarter-mile concrete biking and walking trail and nearby picnic area constructed by Newton County Trail--Path Foundation in 2006;

Historic Railroad Depot, which is designed to serve as a trail head. The exterior of the depot was renovated in 2008 through a Georgia Department of Transportation Transportation Enhancement grant;

A mulched nature trail between the depot parking lot and the loop trail, also constructed in 2008.

Components of the park that are planned for this year through a $250,000 DOT grant and local special purpose local option sales tax funds include the addition of public restrooms inside the depot and water fountains, an outdoor stage, exhibit space and bike racks on the exterior. In addition, a half-mile paved trail that will extend from Broad Street to the depot and on to the loop trail is planned.

In addition to the Newton County Trail -- PATH Foundation, other stakeholders in the park project include the city of Porterdale, Friends of Porterdale Inc., Newton County Recreation Commission, Friends of Newton Parks, The Center for Community Planning and Preservation, The Yellow River Preservation and Conservation Group, The Tourism Division of the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Department of Transportation, and Porterdale Police Explorers.