If you missed last night’s bike/ped/trail update meeting at the Forum in Rome, you missed hearing from people who believe in Rome and Floyd County being better connected creating more bike and pedestrian infrastructure. Yes, there were people there who felt that “Rome will be like Pakistan, with all these people on bikes.” and people not understanding why this plan has to happen in the first place, but I choose to believe in good, and the good news is that at least half of the room understood that we are planning for the future and that we have to plan now for transportation alternatives that include more people on bikes and walking. The goals that we are working toward include achieving the much sought after Bicycle Friendly Community in 2018 as deemed by the League of American Bicycle Organization, doubling the number of people walking and biking to work in five years, and connecting Cave Spring to the Silver Comet Trail.
The much aligned “Broad Street” portion of the plan was removed, due likely to public outcry over reducing Broad Street to one lane, installing reverse angle parking, and removing some parking spaces to make bike lanes. Here are some facts that prove that ALTA Planning WAS thinking about the positive economic benefits of changing Broad Street and ultimately connecting the entire community to the central business district:
- A study in Portland, OR on consumer behavior mode share (how one gets around), addressed the concern business owners have asked when to replace car parking with bike parking. The study states that even though cyclists and pedestrians spend less per trip, they MAKE MORE frequent visits to a business throughout the month and end up spending more on average than their car driving peers.
- Magnolia Street in Fort Worth, TX, reported a 163% increase in retail sales after a bike lane and improved bike parking were installed in the area.
- For those downtown residents, studies have looked at the effects proximity to trails and other bike and walking facilities have on property values and in Omaha, NE, nearly two-thirds of homeowners who purchased their home after a trail was built said that the trail positively influenced their purchase decision.
The positive news is that the rest of the plan is still in place. That means getting focused on (including the aforementioned goals) connecting the four colleges via a trail network, adding 25 miles of new on-street bikeways, and 35 miles of new trails and side paths. A bike/ped advisory committee will also be formed to work through the challenges of making this community safer and healthier for everyone.
TRED supports the City of Rome and Floyd County as we look to create the type of environment that attracts visitors and create our own Chattanooga or Portland, in our beautiful part of Northwest Georgia.
The plan will be posted for 30 days, see link: http://www.northwestgeorgianews.com/rome/news/local/broad-street-taken-out-of-bike-pedestrian-draft-plan/article_eebbbf12-85b3-11e4-96ae-d7dfa1458806.html
Please send your comments to Sue Hiller, email@example.com, in the Rome-Floyd Planning Department.
Voters flocked to the polls last Tuesday and we saw many changes in State Houses and Congress. But what did November 4th mean for biking and walking? Advocacy Advance tracks and supports campaigns to win public funding for active transportation.
Yay for Cobb County, where fifty-three percent of voters approved a renewal to the one cent sales tax for transportation projects, including $35 million for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
Boo for those in Greenville County , SC (home of the Swamp Rabbit Trail): After a successful poll in 2013 showed public agreement that elected officials should support funding for a variety of transportation types, the Greenville County Council voted to include bicycle, pedestrian, and transit improvements in the one-penny sales tax. Unfortunately, despite educational efforts by Bike Walk Greenville and Upstate Forever, the multi-modal measure, which would have provided $47.6 million over 8 years for walking and biking, failed on Tuesday.
Locally, TRED is continuing to work with local officials to promote and expand trails. Remember to always ask questions of your elected officials…are they helping or hindering TRED’s efforts?
Support TRED by purchasing a set of coffee mugs. $10 for 1 or $17 for 2, at Cycle Therapy.
Rome, GA-TRED (Trails for Recreation and Economic Development) is pleased to
announce “Dan,The Clean-up Man” as the newest addition to the initiative to keep the
Rome-Floyd Heritage Trail system clean and unobstructed from debris. “Dan,The Clean-up Man,”
also known as Dan Greeson, is a recently retired banker who loves to bike and is happy
to give back to his community by donating his services to TRED. Dan rides a bike
designed to pull a trailer equipped with a trash can, bags, and lawn equipment and
three to five hours of Dan’s weekly rides will be devoted to assisting the Rome-Floyd
Parks and Recreation Authority in keeping the Heritage Trail System clean. Richard
Garland, RFPRA Executive Director says: “We appreciate the support of TRED and the
work they do enhance our trail system. It’s great to know Dan will be out there lending a
hand and building community support for the wholesome use of our trails.” Dan will
also provide water to trail users and solicit feedback for ways to improve the trails for all
residents and visitors. Dan also serves on the TRED Board of Advisors.
Great shout out by USA Today on Rome’s beauty and the great network of Heritage Trails. We are working to increase them!
Embraced by three winding rivers, Downtown Rome and bustling Broad Street have been the center of activity in this northwest Georgia hub for over 180 years. The mix of boutiques, Victorian architecture, Roman cuisine, rich heritage and green space has allowed Rome to live up to the reputation of the classic eternal city from which it derives its moniker. In addition to a variety of dining options, there’s a fascinating assortment of statues and plaques detailing the town’s development. Don’t miss the iconic City Clocktower & Museum, Capitoline Wolf, extensive Heritage Trail System, and beautiful older homes in the adjacent Between-the-Rivers Historic District.
The project team will also be hosting open office hours on Tuesday, August 5 from 8:00am to 10:00am and 3:00pm to 5:00pm, also in the Berry-Shorter Room of the Forum. If you are not able to attend the public workshop or would like to talk with the project team in more detail about your ideas, please stop by. All are welcome.
The purpose of the workshops and open office hours is to identify specific improvements related to walking and biking infrastructure in Rome-Floyd County as well as prioritize the goals and implementation strategies for this plan. The outcome of the workshop and office hours will be a draft plan that will identify priority projects for funding, develop policy related to walking and biking, and update the goals related to walking and biking in Rome-Floyd County .Questions? Contact Sue Hiller, Rome-Floyd Planning 238-5025
By Diane Mastrull, Inquirer Columnist
Posted: July 15, 2014
With a glistening river beside him and a lush treetop canopy above, Patrick Starr, executive vice president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, was in his nature-loving glory atop his Zurich LeMond road bike one spring day a couple of years ago, breezing along the Schuylkill River Trail, when two things of beauty caught his eye.
They were signs on the fence of a restaurant on the other side of Kelly Drive, just west of the Route 1 overpass, in East Falls. One said: “Bikes Welcome.” The other: “Beer & Bikes.”
The establishment, In Riva, has since become a regular thirst-quenching, carb-loading stop for the Center City resident, who pedals once a week to Valley Forge and back.
That’s precisely what co-owner and chef Arthur Cavaliere had hoped for when, after opening his Italian restaurant in December 2011, he hung those signs, replaced the lattice on the metal fence lining the outside dining deck with five bicycles and installed bike racks.
“The reason nothing worked here before was because they did not appeal to these people on that trail,” Cavaliere said last week from the deck, recently expanded to accommodate growing customer counts. He credits the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT) for that, judging from all the spandex and biking jerseys filling In Riva’s 190 seats.
It’s been a slow roll. But as the region’s trail system known as The Circuit, which includes the SRT, gains critical mass, small businesses in particular are realizing its revenue-generating potential and taking steps to capitalize on it.
“We’ve been excited to hear over time about the momentum that it’s generated,” said Laura Sparks, chief philanthropy officer at William Penn Foundation, whose long involvement in local trail development began as a way to increase public access to waterways and promote their stewardship.
The foundation’s investments in trails dates to at least 1986, with grants for trail design, construction, and advocacy totaling more than $20 million.
The Circuit consists of 275 navigable miles, with an additional 445 – improvement costs estimated at $250 million – envisioned by 2040.
With significant trail segments slated for completion in the next couple of years, including along the Manayunk Bridge to link Manayunk’s bars, restaurants and shops with cross-river neighbor Lower Merion, “what we’re saying to businesses is . . . now’s the time to pay attention, invest, and catch the wave – or the hill,” Starr said. He is also the Pennsylvania vice chair of the Circuit Coalition, a collaboration of nonprofit organizations, foundations, and other agencies pushing for completion.
“The investments made by the municipalities and counties pay off,” said Sarah Clark Stuart, chair of the Circuit Coalition and deputy director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. “These trails attract new development, increase property values, support small businesses that serve users, and help other businesses who have employees who want to use the trails [to get to and from work].”
Case in point is the SRT, currently 60 miles of finished segments between Philadelphia and Pottsville.
According to a 2009 survey of more than 1,200 SRT users by the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy
the path yielded $3.7 million in spending on durable goods such as bicycles, helmets, and skates, and $3.6 million on consumable goods, with the average user spending $9.07, said Carl Knoch, manager of trail development.
That’s why Kay Sykora at the Manayunk Development Corp. is trying to get businesses along Manayunk’s two miles of SRT trail to do more to be noticed from it.
“This is a very unique feature that we have to capitalize on,” she said.
They’ve done just that at Conshohocken Brewing Co., which opened its brewpub April 1 in a former warehouse at SRT mile marker 12.5 (the intersection of East Elm and Righter Streets), replacing a rear concrete-block wall with two 10-by-8-foot glass roll-up doors that open to a deck and stairs leading to the trail.
Conshohocken Running Club has made the brewery its start and end point every Thursday night. “We’re just super-thrilled and appreciative that the folks who are utilizing the Schuylkill River Trail are responding as they are,” said Conshohocken Brewing cofounder John Remington.
Trail users have helped Ken and JoMarie Fields survive their first 20 months in business at their Outbound Station Coffee Shop, located along the SRT in a former Pennsylvania Railroad station dating from the 1880s in Conshohocken.
“As the business has grown, different cycling clubs put our name on their websites and they start and end here,” Ken Fields said.
For a small business, that’s a thrilling ride.
By Herb Hiller
A conference of Georgians that didn’t blink at the idea of marketing bicycle tours to commemorate Sherman’s March to the Sea left no one shaking their heads about trails, not cars, fronting Georgia’s urban future.
If the ravaging of antebellum culture could be re-packaged as economic development, why not trails to free Georgia from its oath to suburban culture?
The Georgia Trail Summit in April was the first in 15 years. Although its 150 registrants spent less than a day and a half under the same roof, they came away convinced of trails ascendant in a future channeled through volunteerism, nonprofits, and a supportive private sector. Government would be vital, but the movement would lead.
The summit took place in Athens, a virtual city-state where arts and conservation thrive thanks to the $2 billion annual economic impact of the University of Georgia. A riverfront greenway has become a focus for off-campus housing and for visitors to the city’s convention hall two blocks away. Another 39 miles of trail will connect Athens with Union Point, in Georgia’s rural north.
However, it was trail leadership from Atlanta that shone the summit beacon. Decatur bike commuter and lifelong trails advocate Tracie Sanchez successfully launched the summit idea, organized the volunteers and agency people needed to pull it off. The nonprofit MillionMile Greenway, led by Atlantan Jim Langford, offered up the initial challenge grant funding of $5,000.
Two more nonprofit leaders juxtaposed Georgia’s past and future and made clear that the past was– well, passed. One called Atlanta “the poster child for sprawl.” Another pointed to Millennials moving to urban centers, including Atlanta, “by the millions, commuting, shopping and recreating without cars.”
Ryan Gravel spoke with prophetic vision. It was he in 1999, who as an engineering doctoral student at Georgia Tech, dreamed up the Atlanta BeltLine. That’s the multi-use path in development by a public-private-nonprofit coalition that over the next 20 years will rim downtown with 33 miles of trails centered on an abandoned 22-mile rail corridor, connecting 45 in-town neighborhoods, public parks, MARTA commuter rail and the Atlanta Streetcar. As many as 10,000 on a Sunday enjoy the seven miles already in place.
“People along the route have discovered a vision better than anybody else was showing them,” Gravel said. “They’re filling it out with affordable and public housing, with arts, with farmers markets, local food, pollinators, bocce ball courts.
“People are really organizing their lives around this new corridor. It lets them live the lives they want.”
By 2015, an elevated portion of the BeltLine will run directly through the third level of the million-square-foot multi-purpose Ponce City Market that project developers emphasize will have bike valet, changing facilities and showers. They project that if 10 percent of daily visitors arrive by bike or on foot that that will represent 1,000 non-polluting commutes.
”We’re not only dramatically changing the physical form of the city and how people connect,” said Gravel, who now develops urban design solutions for Perkins+Will Global. “We’re changing our cultural expectations. This is huge for a city generally considered the poster child for sprawl. Looking ahead, it’s a different world.”
“Trails are proving as important in how we’re learning to live as the transformation of America by cars and highways was.”
Ed McBrayer, who heads the nonprofit trail-building PATH Foundation, sees young adults as Atlanta’s transforming agents. He cited data that the percentage of 16-to-24-year-olds who apply for driver licenses peaked in 1983 at 80 percent and has since fallen to 64, a timeframe in which bicycle use among the same cohort has jumped by 24 percent.
McBrayer, a one-time Colorado home-builder, called bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure “as important to new generations as highways were to our generation. The suburbs are not the happening place to be anymore!”
McBrayer runs a lean staff of five. In 23 years they’ve built 200 miles of trail, including the hugely popular Silver Comet Trail that runs for 61.5 miles from Atlanta to the Alabama line, where it continues another 33 miles as the Chief Ladiga Trail to Anniston.
By getting trails built, PATH Foundation and the Atlanta BeltLine have succeeded in attracting private sector and foundation backing for their vision. Corporate Atlanta leads trail-funding campaigns and populates nonprofit boards. Familiar supporting brands include Coca Cola, Cox Foundation, ING Direct, NIKE, Office Depot, Rollins and Turner Broadcasting. In a current campaign, PATH has successfully raised $14.33 million to build 37 more miles of trail.
Not everyone was there
Georgia DOT was invited, yet didn’t attend the summit, and only the host regional planning commission, the Northeast Georgia, among the state’s 12 played a leading role. Staff represented others. Economic development was represented only by state and regional tourism managers, whose chief interest was marketing trail use to people who stay overnight. Robyn Elliott, who operates Georgia Bicycle Tours, did report on tourism grants to extend her tours to mid-state’s Antebellum Trail and to Sherman’s trail of ruin. Few others represented trail-based businesses.
Yet the clear value of the summit showed in consensus about next moves. John Devine, senior planner at the Northeast Georgia Commission, and a summit host city organizer, led a visioning session that asked three questions: How often should a Georgia Trail Summit happen? What do advocates need to support their trail-building work apart from future summits? If Georgia needs a statewide trail organization, should this be a government agency, a new statewide 501(c)(3) nonprofit, or an already existing nonprofit?
Challenges and opportunities were summed up this way:
- Reconvene annually. Bring Georgia’s entire trail community together in one place to learn from each other, share resources and information, and form relationships that can remain active year-round.
- Create a statewide strategic plan for expanding resources and citizen support to build new trails and connect to existing ones.
- Educate elected officials on trail benefits through classes and mobile workshops. Speak with one voice to make the case. Move trails from a step-child of government awareness to top priority.
- Organize regional work groups that meet to solve problems.
- Share the economic and health benefits generated by the Silver Comet Trail, the Atlanta BeltLine, the Appalachian Trail and others. Host educational events for members of the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia.
- Keep communicating to Georgia’s corporate leaders the valuable returns from investing in trails.
- Conduct a statewide inventory of Georgia trails: existing, proposed and priorities. Identify corridors that need protection, and connections between trail systems. Identify funding sources. Prepare an inventory for vetting candidates in this year’s gubernatorial election.
- Involve people drawn to urban lifestyle. Document and communicate this cultural shift with user surveys and other measurements. Show that trails are not a fleeting trend. Create a marketing strategy to engage new generations with social media and entrepreneurial incentives. Host focus groups for their input. Learn their preferences.
- Just as cities and counties have access to revolving funds for building waste plants and other essential infrastructure, so should trail building agencies, especially as land costs continue to rise. The sooner that trails connect, the sooner that users can benefit, while at the same time generating increased revenues from rising property values that trails generate.
- Work closer with Georgia’s regional project managers.
- Create a state trails database. Establish a clearing house or online cooperative where communities in the early stages of trail development can learn from communities already successful in trail building, including features like bridges, facilities that access water trails, equestrian trails and trails designed around history, culture, wineries and other themes. Create a website where all trail groups can pool resources. Some sections can be free; other sections with more in-depth information and access to trail experts can require a fee. Is MillionMile Greenway the entity to take this on?
- Create an independent statewide advisory board that includes members appointed by the Governor and legislature.
- Should the state create a trail commission similar to the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office to actively encourage the business of trail building? Both Alabama and Florida have trail commissions.
- On the other hand, don’t turn over trail leadership to a state agency. An independent advisory council could encourage more private funding and rely less on financial support from the state.
- Target the trail message to the boards of the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Transportation, and to elected officials.
As Jim Langford put it, “What’s happening in Atlanta is going to happen all across Georgia. Heroes are coming out of the woodwork. ‘Be bold,’” he added quoting Canadian spiritualist Basil King, “and mighty forces will come to your aid.”
Herb Hiller is Southeast Region Program Coordinator for the East Coast Greenway Alliance.
George Harper, Rome
Some recent letters to the editor have expressed opposition to developing the proposed rail corridor between Rome and Cave Spring as a rails-to-trails project. The writers express concern about loss of privacy on their property and crime, and they ask basic questions like who will patrol the trails and how will basic human hygiene issues be addressed.
First, Rome’s leaders have done a great job of developing recreational trails for our community. Rome is a better place to live because of it. Young professional workers look for these kinds of amenities in a community when considering where to live and work, and Rome needs to attract these kinds of people to keep developing economically and moving forward.
I’m sure our community leaders realize that such rails-to-trails projects are a growing phenomenon all over the country.
My wife and I travel the country in an RV, and one of our favorite things to do is ride our bikes on new trails that we find. So we have seen many examples of what forward-looking communities have done to develop attractive trail projects in their communities.
Nearby Greenville, South Carolina, has a marvelous trail called the Swamp Rabbit Trail that runs south through Clemson University and then all the way to downtown Greenville. Charlotte, North Carolina, has a light rail line that runs south out of the city and they have built a bike/walking trail alongside the tracks. Many condominium projects and restaurants have developed along this project. Workers can ride their bikes to work in downtown Charlotte or ride the train.
Recreational trail projects like that being considered between Rome and Cave Spring will similarly bring economic development to the area, not to mention the health benefits.
A 2013 study, “Silver Comet Trail Economic Impact Assessment and Planning Study,” showed that every dollar invested in trails creates at least three dollars of return from tourism and recreation-related activities like equipment rentals, restaurants, and lodging. Another interesting part of the study demonstrated that property values increased 4 percent to 7 percent for homes within one-quarter mile of the trail.
Most people find these trails desirable amenities and want to live near them. The next time you are in Rockmart, check out Frankie’s Italian Restaurant near the Silver Comet Trail downtown and see what she thinks of the trail. Cyclists are a big part of her business and can write their name on a “wall of fame.”
While the previous letter writers express fear of trail users, they might find it interesting that riders have to carefully consider the neighborhoods that they ride through as well.
Cyclists have been attacked on trails by residents of neighborhoods they pass through. However, despite property owners’ concerns about crime from trails, criminals have far better access to and quicker exit from properties by road than they do by trail. We all have to face the reality of crime all around us and plan accordingly, but that should not be a reason for not developing or riding on trails.
In our trail rides we notice that many property owners put up a privacy fence on their property to deal with privacy concerns. We also see local civic groups sponsoring port-a-potties on trails, and we regularly see Polk County Sheriff’s deputies patrolling the Silver Comet Trail in a utility vehicle.
The reason why trails are often built on abandoned rail lines is because the right of way already exists and there are grants available to convert their use to recreational purposes. Thus, the rail corridor between Rome and Cave Spring is an ideal site for a rails-to-trails project.
Let’s join the trend in the rest of the country and develop Floyd County’s great recreational trail assets for the betterment of all through economic growth, improved community health, and a more attractive community. The legitimate concerns of adjacent property owners can be addressed. From the “Rome News-Tribune” letter to the editor, June 3, 2014.
I recently pedaled the Silver Comet Trail from Smyrna, Ga., a suburb north of Atlanta, to Cedartown, a small city with an historic downtown near the Alabama border. My ride through the mostly wooded countryside was so pleasant, I didn’t want it to end.
Apparently, I’m not alone.
A 2013 study by the Northwest Georgia Regional Planning Commission recommends more than doubling the length of the Silver Comet Trail —at its “tail” end—with spurs to nearby commercial centers and longer extensions to Marietta, Rome and Atlanta’s growing bike-path network.
As illustrated in their 2013 “Silver Comet Trail Economic Impact Assessment and Planning Study,” trails are well-established economic engines.
The study finds that every dollar invested in trails creates at least three dollars of return from tourism and recreation-related activities like equipment rentals, restaurants and lodging.
As an added note: Some studies have documented much higher rates of return, such as 900 percent in North Carolina’s Outer Banks and 1,180 percent in Kansas City!
In its present 61-mile makeup, 1.9 million users flock to the Silver Comet Trail each year, which got its name from the train that once sped passengers between New York City and Birmingham, Ala. Survey results conclude that Silver Comet Trail users generate $57 million in direct spending annually on food, clothing, lodging and other trip-related items.
One of the beneficiaries: Frankie’s Italian Restaurant in Rockmart, where cyclists can memorialize their rides by writing on a wall of fame!
The $57 million of direct spending estimated by the study creates an additional $61 million in indirect impact as dollars ripple through the economy. The total spending of almost $120 million in Georgia supports roughly 1,300 jobs and $37 million in earnings. In addition, the combined direct and indirect spending generates roughly $3.5 million in income tax, sales tax and business tax revenues.
Many trail users live in communities that are not adjacent to the trail; the study documents trail users from 23 counties in 8 different states—some as far away as Washington.
Ramona Ruark, Cedartown Main Street director, adds that the visitor log in the Cedartown Welcome Center—a replica of the city’s original train station—documents trail users from other countries as well.
More than one-fifth of the people who responded to a 2013 survey stay overnight when visiting the trail—not surprising since roughly 15-million people live outside Georgia but within a 150-mile radius of the Silver Comet Trail. In fact, the study found that these bicycle tourists spend roughly $20 million annually on their visits.
Jackie Crum, owner of the Ragsdale Inn just off the trail in Dallas, estimates that more than half of her guests are Silver Comet Trail riders. “Tourism is wonderful for the local economy,” she explains. “It generates income without the infrastructure needs and tax burdens of residential development.”
Now, let’s talk about property values…
Several organizations have calculated the residential property value increases associated with proximity to trails and green space. A fact sheet from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy reports that properties along a trail in Brown County, Wis., fetched a 9 percent premium, and a regional greenway in Apex, N.C., added $5,000 to the sales price of adjacent homes in the Shepherd’s Vineyard development.
The Silver Comet Trail study summarizes that trails are responsible for a 4 to 7 percent increase in property value for homes within one-quarter mile. The study also estimates that the trail is capable of attracting developers to build new houses on vacant land near the trail with a value of up to $41 million, generating an additional half-million dollars in property tax revenue.
Trail-adjacent business owners are excited about the proposal to double the length of the trail. Longer trails mean more riders, more business, more jobs, more tax revenues and, consequently, more prosperity.
Photos by Rick Pruetz. Top: Silver Comet Trail wildlife area; top right: Historic Downtown Dallas, Ga.; middle left: Frankie’s Italian Restaurant in Rockmart, Ga.; bottom right: Jackie Crum in front of the Ragsdale Inn in Dallas, Ga.
Rick Pruetz is a planning consultant specializing in open space preservation. He is also an avid cyclist and occasionally writes about the economic benefits of rail trails.