Light rain Saturday didn’t stop a large crowd from taking part in the dedication of the new GE Trails at Garrard Park. Well over a hundred hiking and biking enthusiasts along with descendants of Dr. John L. Garrard huddled under tents near the trailhead, at the east end of the old General Electric parking lot, to dedicate the recreation area (map).
The 123 acres are named for the doctor who originally owned the land and sold it to General Electric in July 1952 for $118,350. His youngest son, Bobby Garrard, who still lives in Rome, snipped the ribbon to officially open the recreational complex.
Dr. Garrard took one of the fields on the property and turned it into an airstrip, Rome’s first airport. Robert E. Stroop, who was certified for flight in 1921 by Orville Wright, delivered the plane to Rome and fell in love with one of Garrard’s daughters and they later married. Many of the Garrard and Stroop descendants were on hand Saturday for the dedication.
When the plant closed in 1997, discussions started almost immediately about donating the wooded acreage to the city.
“This feels like a lifetime project for us,” said Rome City Manager Sammy Rich. “That was just to get the property under city control. Basically 20 years later we’re all standing out in the parking lot and for the first time this 123 acres is back in use for all of you.”
TRED volunteers, including trailmaster Billy Nicholson, Steve Kight, Jim Jackson and Mike Rousseau, and many others worked virtually every weekend since last June to build the trail. Cody Platt, the GE site manager, was among the others recognized for contributions to the trail network.
Prison crews from the Floyd County Prison were also instrumental in doing a lot of the work.
Three loop trails designed for mountain bikes crisscross approximately half of the 123-acre tract for a total of 4 miles. A 1.2-mile walking trail has also been developed along the perimeter of the property and was named for Bob and Peggy Moore during Saturday’s ceremony. The Moores operated Bob’s Cycle Shop for many years and have been longtime leaders in the development of area trails.
Nicholson said the first-time volunteers walked the site, they saw there was a lot of standing water on the property.
“We ended up with eight bridges, which are nice features for the trails, one of them is over a beaver dam,” he said.
The trails are still a work in progress, Nicholson added.
“We had some pavers donated and we’ll be putting those in the real muddy areas, and we may even put in some boardwalks, so it will be fun to ride,” he said. “We used the International Mountain Biking Association template for trails, which means they will be sustainable trails that drain well and are easy to maintain and handle a lot of traffic.”
The city is still is the process of developing plans for the southern end of the park, closer to West Central Elementary School.