Former junk car yard to become gateway to South River Trail

CONYERS -- Rockdale County is nearing the end of a five-year project to turn a former junkyard into a park.

After acquiring the property located at 3909 East Fairview Road in 2007, the Rockdale County Parks and Recreation Department will begin construction on the Lorraine Trailhead -- an access point for the South River Trail -- in the next few weeks, according to Andrew Hammer, Rockdale County's special projects manager.

The construction of the trailhead, as well as an extension of the South River Trail, is part of a plan to build a multiuse trail system in Rockdale County.

"The county did a master plan in 2006. As a part of this, they got input from a lot of people, including citizens. One of the highest ranking projects was walking trails. What (the South River Trail) does is fill that gap," Hammer said.

The Lorraine Trailhead is one of several trailheads that will allow people access to the South River Trail.

"The trailhead is more or less right in the middle of our system," Hammer said. "Essentially, there will be a parking lot along with some amenities."

The trailhead will contain 41 parking spaces, two river overlooks as well as a short section of the South River Trail.

The county received a $100,000 grant from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to build the park. The county is required to match the funding, and will do so through the 2011 SPLOST. The trailhead is one of the first projects to be funded by the 2011 SPLOST.

Hammer said he expects the project to move quickly and smoothly.

"I don't want to say the hardest, but the most time-consuming part of the project will be getting the site with all the associated permits," Hammer said. "When we purchased the property, the owner was required to remove the parts from the site. We've already demolished the buildings and we've hired a contractor to come out and look at the site. By the time it's all said and done, it will be 2012. It's essentially a five-year project."

The expected completion date for the project is next spring, according to Hammer.

The trailhead is part of the South River Trail that begins in DeKalb County and will eventually extend through Rockdale and into Newton County.

The county has partnered with the PATH Foundation to build sections of the trail in south Rockdale County that will run from Panola Mountain State Park at Alexanders Lake to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit.

Last month, the county dedicated a section and trailhead at the South Rockdale Community Park.

"Eventually what the county plans to have is an extensive trail system that connects the South River Trail with the Olde Town Conyers Trail the city is building," Hammer said. "Eventually, we'll have a trail system that stretches from Olde Town Conyers to the International Horse Park and the South River Trail, and Newton County will pick it up and extend it out there. So, we kind of have a multidistrict master plan to create a system for the east metro area."

Hammer said he was happy to see the project nearing its completion.

"It was really the perfect project," he said. "I'm just privileged enough to be able to help put it in place."