Over 100 miles of greenways and off-street walking and biking paths, a successful and growing public bike share program, and an outdoor community filled with people from every walk of life -- out connecting with nature and with one another. It takes vision and leadership to create what cities like Minneapolis have today. You might think we lack that kind of vision in Newton County. Well, yes and no...
In 2008, the Newton County Board of Commissioners adopted an updated Comprehensive Plan/Community Agenda for the two decades leading to 2028. That plan, available here, is filled with clear, pointed statements about the importance of walking and biking to the community and the need for better facilities. "Though the County has a bicycle plan, the need remains for more multi-use trails for walking and biking," reads the section on Transportation Opportunities. And, the Transportation Strategies section includes an item calling on the County to: "Expand pedestrian and bicycle facilities within recommended activity centers as part of all new development, and in support of the County Greenways Plan."
The section on Natural and Cultural Resources states: "A greenspace plan, which identified opportune areas for trails and greenways, was created shortly after the County’s April 2000 Comprehensive Plan Update. This plan has stimulated greater levels of interest in trails and greenspace as both community assets and tools for natural resource preservation. Further efforts should be made to implement the plan and keep it up-todate. The County has purchased several tracts of land for preservation, but more can be done."
The plan is filled from front to back with repeated references to trails and greenways in nearly every character area and development node. To reinforce this point, we've accumulated an inventory of those references. You can find it here.
Remember, the Newton County Board of Commissioners adopted this plan unanimously, on a motion made by Commissioner Mort Ewing and seconded by Commissioner Monty Laster. The City of Covington has very similar strategies and plans in its Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2007. The vision has always been there, supported time and again by citizen input. What has been lost is the connection of our Commissioners and our Council Members to that vision.
These are the questions you need to be asking those running for election or reelection to these posts. Do they remember the vision, and are they willing to work hard to make it a reality? The choice is simple. We can aim for the top, or we can fall aimlessly to the bottom.