FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

RAIL TRAIL FAQ
Below are answers to some of the most common questions regarding the Cricket Frog Trail and its development.  Please email us if you have questions that aren't addressed and become a Newton Trails member to show your support. 
WHAT IS A RAIL TRAIL?
  • Rail trails are multi-purpose public paths created from former railroad corridors.

  • Rail trails tend to be flat or follow a gentle grade as they traverse urban, suburban and rural communities. Because of their gentle grade, rail trails are ideal for walking, bicycling, inline skating, and wheelchair use

  • Across the country, rail trails are extremely popular for both transportation and recreation and are a major draw for residents and tourists in the communities that develop them.

WHERE IS THE CRICKET FROG TRAIL AND HOW MUCH LAND DOES THE FORMER RAILROAD CORRIDOR INCLUDE?
  • The Cricket Frog Trail covers 14.9 linear miles from Washington Street near the southwestern city limits of Covington to just outside of Newborn at Ziegler Road.  INTERACTIVE MAP

  • The former railroad road corridor includes approximately 145 acres of land, with the corridor ranging in width from 11 feet to 200 feet.

 

CAN I USE THE CRICKET FROG TRAIL NOW?
  • Sections of the trail that are currently open for public use include an approximately one-and-a-half-mile primitive section running from Turner Lake Road to Emory Street, a .65-mile paved section from Elm Street to Conyers Street, a primitive 1.35-mile section running from Conyers Street to Eagle Drive, and a two-and-a-half-mile primitive section in the Mansfield area

  • Primitive sections of the trail have a gravel surface and are suitable for walking and sturdy mountain bikes.

  • While six miles of the trail are open for public use, most of the trail remains closed because of the four trestle bridges in need of reconstruction and the need to develop public parking areas.

 

WILL THE CRICKET FROG TRAIL BE PAVED?  WHEN?
  • With an outpouring of community support, NT completed the first half mile of paved rail trail in Covington in April 2017.

  • Given the length and width of the corridor, both hard and soft-surface paving is a possibility to suit various uses.

  • By thinking of the trail in sections, there is an opportunity to develop each segment to best fit the character of the surrounding area and to serve the public likely to access the trail.

  • Prioritizing trail sections allows for incremental development of a funding model for each, maximizing the opportunity to reach out to private citizens, foundations, local governments, and corporations for support and involvement.

HOW MUCH WILL THE CRICKET FROG TRAIL COST TO DEVELOP AND WHO WILL PAY FOR IT?  ONCE BUILT, HOW MUCH WILL THE TRAIL COST TO MAINTAIN?
  • The estimated cost of the trail project is $7,200,000. This includes design and engineering, paving, reconstructing four bridges, and adding amenities like signage, benches and restrooms.

  • The goal of NT is to plan, design, create, and maintain the trail in cooperation with the towns through which the trail will run. This may include in-kind donations and support as well as funding.  Newton Trails will seek the bulk of funding by seeking grant funds and raising funds from private citizens and businesses.

  • Trails, like roads, buildings, and equipment purchases, have associated maintenance costs.  A 2005 Rails-to-Trails Conservancy survey revealed that the average trail has annual M&O costs of just under $1,500 per mile, regardless of surface type.

SHOULD I BE WORRIED ABOUT CRIME ON THE TRAIL?
  • NT has established a Trails Working Group to involve public officials, including law enforcement, in the trail planning process and address concerns and issues that arise.

  • NT takes the concerns of residents and trail users very seriously; however, extensive research indicates that crime on rail trails is rare. Researchers with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy have thoroughly examined the experience of nearly 400 rail trails in urban, suburban and rural environments throughout the U.S. over more than 30 years.  According to this research, there is no evidence that the development of rail trails leads to an increase in crime.  In fact, it has been documented that criminal activity on rail trails is significantly lower than the overall rate of crime.

  • In addition to the quantitative data, a number of the research reports present anecdotal information from law enforcement officers on the incidence of crime on the rail-trails.    These reports indicate that because rail trails attract activity, they can act to deter crime in areas that were previously isolated. (See Rail-Trails and Safe Communities: The Experience on 372 Trails, prepared by Tammy Tracy & Hugh Morris, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, January 1998.)

WILL THE TRAIL AFFECT THE VALUE OF MY ADJACENT PROPERTY?
  • The experience of other rail trails indicates the proximity to a rail trail has no impact or actually increases the value and marketability of adjacent property.

  • According an analysis conducted by the University of Delaware:

“The majority of studies indicate that the presence of a bike path/trail either increases property values and ease of sale slightly or has no effect. Studies have shown that neighbors of many bike paths/trails feel that the quality of life of their neighborhood has been improved, that the trails were a good use of open space, and in the case of abandoned railways were an improvement from before the trails went in.”  Source: “Project Report for Property Value/Desirability Effects of Bike Paths Adjacent to Residential Areas,” prepared for Delaware Center For Transportation and The State of Delaware Department of Transportation, November 2006.

  • A study published in 2006 on home prices near two trails in Massachusetts, the Minuteman Bikeway and the Nashua River Trail, found that homes near these rail trails sold at 99.3% of the list price as compared to 98.1% of the list price for other homes sold in these towns. The study also found that homes near the rail trails sold in an average of 29.3 days as compared to 50.4 days for other homes. Source:  “Home Sales near Two Massachusetts Rail Trails,prepared by Craig Della Penna, Realtor®, The Murphys Realtors, Inc., Northampton, MA, January 25, 2006.

AS AN ADJACENT PROPERTY OWNER, WILL I BE LIABLE IF A TRAIL USER WANDERS ONTO MY PROPERTY AND IS INJURED?
  • When a trail intersects privately owned land, residents may be apprehensive about the prospect of allowing public use of their property for recreation purposes. However, landowners are offered protection under state recreational use statutes.

  • Trail users wandering onto posted private property are considered trespassers under the law.

  • According to the experience of other rail trails as reported by the Rails to Trails Conservancy, “adjacent landowners are not at risk as long as they abstain from ‘willful and wanton misconduct’ against trespassers such as recklessly or intentionally creating a hazard. Trail managers minimize liability exposure provided they design and manage the trail in a responsible manner and do not charge for trail access.”

 

IF MY PROPERTY IS ADJACENT TO THE CORRIDOR, CAN I BUILD SOMETHING ON THE CORRIDOR OR BLOCK THE TRAIL?  WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF I DO?
  • No. The property is owned by Norfolk Southern and will be available for use by the general public through NT’s lease of the corridor. Any attempt to block or inhibit the use of the trail will result in legal action and could lead to liability issues in the event that someone injured as a result of these actions.

  • If you prefer increased privacy for your property, you can utilize a tree line or build a fence. However, anything constructed or planted must meet normal property boundary restrictions for your resident city and Newton County.

 

WHY IS NT LEASING RATHER THAN PURCHASING THE RAILROAD CORRIDOR?
  • NT and Norfolk Southern have agreed to an interim trail use agreement under the “railbanking” provisions of the 1983 National Trails System Act.

  • When a corridor is railbanked, there is no real benefit to owning the actual land.

  • An alternative to abandonment, railbanking is a voluntary agreement between a railroad company and a trail agency to use an out-of-service rail corridor as a trail until a railroad might need the corridor again for rail service.

  • A formal process whereby both parties notify the US Surface Transportation Board (STB) of the agreement, which then must certify the status and would have jurisdiction over any future attempts to resume rail service.

 

ISN'T IT RISKY TO BUILD A TRAIL ON THE CORRIDOR IF NORFOLK SOUTHERN HAS THE RIGHT TO RESTORE SERVICE ALONG ALL OR PART OF THE LINE?
  • Railbanking has proven to be a very effective method for converting unused rail corridors into trails.

  • According to the Rails to Trails Conservancy (RTC), more than 353 corridors comprising ~5,300 miles have been railbanked nationwide, with only 10 known instances where rail service was restored.  Of those, only one had been developed for trail use at the time of the reactivation.

  • In this case, with the tracks already removed and no existing customers for rail service in the immediate vicinity, the chances of reactivation are remote.

WHAT ABOUT THE FEDERAL LAWSUITS FILED BY ADJACENT PROPERTY OWNERS?
  • Lawsuits filed on behalf of adjacent property owners against the federal government have become common as rail corridors across the country are railbanked. 

  • Neither NT nor Norfolk Southern are parties to those lawsuits.

  • Courts have held that the railbanking terms of the National Trails System Act are constitutional and that the STB has jurisdiction to rule on trail use agreements with the railroads.

  • The lawsuits filed are solely to determine whether or not the US Government owes compensation to adjacent landowners.​​​​

WHERE DID THE IDEA FOR THE CRICKET FROG TRAIL COME FROM?  HOW DID NT BECOME INVOLVED?
  • The idea for developing the Norfolk Southern rail corridor as a greenway trail originated in 1997 when the Georgia Conservancy held its first-ever Blue Prints for Successful Communities workshop in Covington.  Recommendations included utilizing the then lightly-used Norfolk Southern/Central of Georgia rail corridor as part of a plan to establish a city-wide bike and walking trail system.

  • The 1999 Newton County master plan featured trails that incorporated the Norfolk Southern corridor.

  • In 2000, internationally-renowned planner Andres Duany facilitated community design "charrettes" and the firm's final plan included greenway corridors encompassing the Norfolk Southern rail corridor.

  • A 2005 Livable Cities Initiative report included a recommendation to develop the corridor as a trail.

  • In 2010,  Norfolk Southern discontinued service on the line with Surface Transportation Board (STB) approval.

  • Norfolk Southern filed to abandon the corridor in July 2013; in August 2013 Newton Trails filed a Notice of Interim Trail Use (NITU) with the STB to prevent the abandonment and preserve the corridor.

  • NT continued to negotiate with Norfolk Southern and renewed the NITU at the company's request every six months, totaling five renewals from February 2014 through February 2016.

  • In late March 2016, Norfolk Southern signed a lease agreement with NT allowing the nonprofit organization to develop and use the corridor as a public access trail.

 

I WOULD LIKE TO SUPPORT THE EFFORT TO DEVELOP THE CRICKET FROG TRAIL.  HOW CAN I HELP?
  • One of the best ways you can help right now is to become a member of Newton Trails and encourage your friends and family to become members as well. Foundations and potential corporate sponsors want to see that our project has broad community support.

  • Like most projects of this scope, we also need MONEY! Every dollar puts us one step closer to making the trail a reality. In addition to your own donation, please talk to your employer to see if matching funds are available and explain the importance of this type of resource in our communities. Check out our donation and sponsorship pages for more information.

  • Express your support for the corridor acquisition and development of the Cricket Frog Trail in a letter to the editors of our local newspapers and/or contact elected officials to share your views.

  • If you have special skills and an interest in volunteering in the areas of fundraising, vegetation management, photography, trail construction, engineering, or marketing, we'd love to hear from you.  Please contact us.

 
HOW CAN I STAY UP TO DATE ON THE TRAIL'S PROGRESS?
  • The best way to receive updates on the trail’s progress is to become a member of Newton Trails and/or sign up for our newsletter. You can also visit our website often and follow us on Facebook.

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P.O. Box 2010 Covington, Ga 30015