It's 11 am on Sunday- a much-awaited, early spring day - and the people of Covington are walking, smiling, greeting one another in passing. They aren't on the highway that runs through town, nor are they at an event on the Square. Most of them have never met before, but still offer a warm "good morning". Perhaps a mutual quest for fitness, fresh air, and a connection to nature have brought them all to Newton's emerging trail system.
Some 30+ people are on the trail during this brief walk along the Eastside Trail, connecting the Newton County Library to Eastside High School. Among them is the Meller family. As Robert, Camie and their 2 young boys take in this familiar path, a next-door neighbor runs by and gives a breathless hello. Henry, 7, ventures ahead-sometimes trekking through the vines to forge a shortcut from one bend to another. Young Calvin, 3, is proudly riding a push-n-go trike with his father Robert at the helm. By the way, if you are new to the trails, outgoing young trail-rider Calvin advises newbies that, "They don't have bathrooms here." So best plan ahead.
"Here's an example of 'If you build it, they will come,'" says Camie, adding that her parents will soon be moving from Oregon to their new Covington home close to the trails. (Walks to Grandma's house may be in their family's future.) This picture of community and family, she explains, contradicts the image of only transients that some had predicted. This view is of Covington residents redefining their lifestyle.
For the Mellers, it's not a lifestyle shift though. They are newly relocated (if 4 years is new) from Portland, Oregon-a city with 26 miles of trails weaving through an urban forest by groceries, bakeries and boutiques. "We were able to walk everywhere. We never had to get in our car," says Camie. "Everyone used the trails."
Robert has brought with him his love of running and has been in both the Fuzz Run and Cheerios Challenge, recently finishing 2nd in his age group.
Robert and Camie were quick to bring their family to the trails as soon as the concrete was formed and the bridge was built. Prior to the Eastside Trail, Robert had been using some nearby sidewalks for trail-running. The family had been frequenting the Oxford Trail and Turner Lake Park trail. So the Eastside Trail was a welcome addition to their new hometown, and they are grateful for the wide paths and sound construction, making children on bikes feel welcome. Now they are anxious for more!
"I would love the trails to connect to the downtown shopping area," says Camie, adding that she would love to see connections with the Oxford and Turner Lake trails and the planned trail along the Yellow River. Robert pointed out that this kind of connectivity could be more easily achieved through acquisitioning railroad tracks, an idea used in Atlanta that he hopes gains popularity.
As the trail straddles Martin Street, the boys reach their favorite part, the bridge. They climb off the bikes and explore a little more. Leaning over the rail towards the creek below, Henry and Calvin look for animal tracks, birds and any other wildlife brave enough to peek out. Camie admires the bridge's construction and its curves, which add interest to the view.
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