On Monday, Atlanta Business Chronicle columnist Maria Saporta published a great blog post titled "More cycling, walking and green space will make Atlanta a more competitive and livable city."
In that article, Saporta shared comments from national experts visiting Atlanta last week for two separate events: Park Pride and the Cities for Cycling Road Show. Across both events, and in presentations by many speakers, the common message was clear: walking, biking, and public green space are vital to our region's long term growth and prosperity.In another Monday report, Saporta recapped a talk by developer and Brookings Institute Senior Fellow Chris Leinberger. Saying "Hot-lanta is No Longer Hot," Leinberger delivered a pointed wake up call to Rotary Club of Atlanta members
. In a talk heavy on examples of how other cities are outpacing our region in every key economic indicator, he criticized Atlanta for investing in "yesterday's economy and not tomorrow's." In particular, he stressed the importance of transit and creating "walkable urban spaces rather than drivable suburban spaces."
“That’s why Atlanta has flat-lined,” Leinberger said. "It only has five walkable urban neighborhoods while Washington, D.C. has more than 40."These experts were speaking of the metro Atlanta region, which reaches well into the western fringes of Newton County. But, the sounding alarms should be heeded by leadership across all of Newton County.
Like the state and the metro region, we must stop building yesterday's economy and lay the groundwork for the economy of tomorrow. Ironically, while our county has fallen far behind in yesterday's framework, we have certain advantages if we embrace the coming model. Leinberger alluded to one such advantage when describing the "experience economy" built on tourism, which he called "the biggest industry on the planet." Newton County has an edge there, but now is when we must exploit it. And, as we have said many times, greenway trails are great tourism attractions with proven economic impact.Thankfully, some Newton County leaders are recognizing the urgent need for better walking and biking facilities in area. To that end, the cities of Covington, Oxford
, and Porterdale (C-O-P) have launched a project with the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission (NEGRC) and Newton Trails to examine current facilities and identify priorities for improving walking and biking. Mayors Ronnie Johnston, Jerry Roseberry, and Arline Chapman are all actively engaged, along with County Commission Chair Kathy Morgan. This is a huge step forward in recognizing what the Regional Walking and Biking Plan
already shows -- that C-O-P is a critical focus area for the region.You can make a difference by responding to a questionnaire the city's are conducting through NEGRC.
A paper version of the survey is being mailed in this month's utility bills, but you can take the survey now online
. We have leaders willing to chart a new course; show them you have their backs by taking the survey and making it clear the people of Newton County are ready to embrace the future.We can do this!
Picture yourself in a boat on a river...
Dozens of folks did just that Saturday in Porterdale, coming to the banks of the Yellow River to enjoy motorized and/or paddle-powered boat rides up river north of the Mill. Thanks to dedicated volunteers Lamar and Kimberly Brown, Fred Franklin, and Cheryl Delk, such outings may soon be just another day in the life of a thriving town bustling with canoeists, kayakers, paddle boarders, cyclists, hikers, joggers, and walkers.
I arrived a little after the noon hour Saturday to find Lamar teaching a young man of 14 from Porterdale how to paddle a kayak. Meanwhile, Fred was giving a father and his three sons a john boat tour up river and back along the shoals by the mill. Amid it all, a young Covington man was practicing his paddle board skills in the calm waters around the bridge.
Kimberly Brown is spearheading a volunteer group to preserve and protect the Yellow River watershed for outdoor recreation, with objectives to keep the river clean and establish put in and take out points for a "blueway" trail along the river. But, it's not all fun and games. When the paddling was over Saturday, Lamar, Fred, and others were headed back upstream to pick up the trash and debris spotted along the shoreline.Newton Trails is partnering with the Yellow River Preservation & Conservation Group, the City of Porterdale, and many other stakeholder groups -- with the objective of rallying support for a Yellow River Park within the 27-acres of riverside property owned today by the City of Porterdale.
Porterdale has twice secured Transportation Enhancement grants from the Georgia Department of Transportation to renovate the historic train depot as a trail head and construct a section of paved trail from Broad St to the existing loop trail by the river. And, Newton County has plans to build the Yellow River/Turkey Creek trail connecting Porterdale to Turner Lake Park in Covington. Together, in partnership, we are aggressively seeking additional grants, private donations, and corporate contributions make the park a reality.
It's a grand project in tough times -- especially in Porterdale. But, it's a project with such incredible potential to transform the historic mill town and create an outdoor recreation destination to draw active tourists from all over north Georgia and beyond.
Close your eyes, and it's easy to imagine what might be. I'm not seeing marshmallow trees or tangerine skies, but I can easily envision a park where "Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers, That grow so incredibly high."
In Porterdale, they dare to dream and they care enough to act. The world needs such places. Come join us and make it happen!
There's a familiar saying: "Those who say it can't be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it." I'm taking it a step further. Forget those who say it can't be done, find those who are doing it, and help make it happen! Where there's no will, there's no way. And, greenway trails are built with willpower.
Local news has been dominated for months by repeated refusals from the Covington City Council and Newton County Board of Commissioners to consider acquiring the Central of Georgia Railroad corridor -- for trail use or any other purpose. We'll take that up another day, for there are many pages left unturned in that book. But, today, I want to highlight a story receiving far less coverage: the recent Transportation Enhancements (TE) grant awarded to the City of Porterdale by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). That $250 thousand grant, backed by local SPLOST collections and private contributions, will fund a project to convert the Historic Railroad Depot into a trail head and community events facility and also construct a concrete trail connecting the Depot to Broad St and the existing loop trail by the Yellow River.
I met Thursday morning with Porterdale Mayor Bobby Hamby, City Manager Bob Thompson, and the city's contracted engineer Marty Boyd. We reviewed drawings and the project budget. By itself, restoring the Depot and creating a short connecting trail is a great first step. But, even more impressive are the city's visionary plans for a comprehensive Riverside Park in the area along the river across Broad St north of the Lofts. When you factor in the county's Turkey Creek/Yellow River Trail project that would connect Porterdale to Newton High School and Turner Lake Park in Covington, your imagination runs wild. Leveraging the greenway trail system with a water trail for canoists, kayakers, and boaters on the Yellow River, you quickly see the tourism and economic development impacts that will transform Porterdale.
Porterdale is a city with big dreams taking small steps. And at a time when larger communities seem paralyzed by a lack of unified vision, small steps are cause for big celebration! These are the people who created a community garden, a farmers market, and a public library from sheer will, personal determination, and a refusal to be limited by things as they are. These are the people who will someday restore their beloved landmark gymnasium lost to fire. And, these are the people who will create a Riverside Park that is the envy of all Newton County and beyond.
At Newton Trails, we support and admire the people of Porterdale. In the weeks ahead, I will work with our board and the City of Porterdale to determine how best to partner and assist them in their cause. And, I know we can count on you, our supporters, to join us in that effort.
In this video, a group of adults said it couldn't be done. But the will of a young boy, personally committed to creating a different reality, inspired a different outcome. We've found that will in Porterdale, now let's find the way!