Unlike our last feature (Turner Lake Rd. to Emory St.), most readers need no introduction to the next segment. If you’ve visited any part of the Cricket Frog Trail, chances are you walked, ran, or biked on the newly paved stretch between Elm and Conyers Streets.
Automated counters installed in early April have tallied nearly 5,500 trail users passing through there already. On sunny spring days and, more recently, rainy ones, that’s an average of 95 every day. Our peak was 294 on Wednesday, May 3, when roughly 160 people attended the official ribbon cutting and grand finale of our Everybody Walk Newton series.
But, there’s still much more to know about the Cricket Frog Trail between Conyers St. and Emory St. To fully appreciate both its current state and even brighter future, here are some things worth a closer look.
Between Sockwell Ave. and Anderson Ave., dense woods and wetlands north of the trail are a surprising contrast to historic homes along Floyd St. to your south. Slow your pace, and even with the dense foliage this time of year you can see Legion Field Fairgrounds and its impressive band shell just a stone’s-throw through the trees. A few weeks ago, you could also hear joyful screams of carnival goers and see the flashing lights of midway rides. In time, we expect the City of Covington to connect the fairgrounds to the Cricket Frog Trail, linking the city’s newest recreation and entertainment venue to the Historic Square.
Approaching downtown Covington from the east, you feel a twinge of sadness at the “Temporary End” sign where the paved trail ends at Elm St. But, with the tiniest amount of imagination, it’s here the real excitement begins.
Across Elm St., a sparse area of grass, dirt, and gravel blends in with an asphalt parking lot on the left, revealing nothing of its railroad heritage -- nor of its future as a bustling crossroads for walkers, joggers, bicyclists, and guests. Because of the trestle just ahead (more on that later), this part of the trail isn’t open yet. But, these two blocks – from Elm St. to Pace St. to Emory St. – will become the heart of the Cricket Frog Trail.
The green space to the right, bordered by Elm, Pace, and Williams streets, will be the transformed over the next few years into a boutique hotel sitting right on the trail. Opening before the end of this decade, the hotel will feature 85-100 rooms, a restaurant, a bar, meeting spaces, and a ballroom. The trail will be an amenity for hotel guests, while also making the facility accessible to local residents.
Pace Street itself is slated for a major facelift in coming years, as the City of Covington undertakes the Pace Street Corridor project to reshape the roadway as a gateway to the Historic Square. With trees, landscaping, sidewalks, and bike lanes, the revitalized corridor will intersect with the Cricket Frog Trail to carry walkers, joggers, and bicyclists from in-town Covington neighborhoods to businesses along US Highway 278.
West of Pace St., the trail passes the Historic Newton County Jail on Stallings St. That building is being converted into a history center/museum through a project funded with the 2005 and 2011 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendums.
Past the old jail, the trail corridor disappears into a tangle of trees and bushes, where barricades block access to the Dried Indian Creek Trestle. Though obscured now, in Winter from Emory St., you can see the soaring timbers and crossbeams that supported locomotives carrying passengers and freight over those waters from the end of 19th Century and into the early years of this one.
With rails removed and only the Mansfield depot remaining, the four wooden trestles scattered across the Cricket Frog’s 15 miles are its most significant link to a railroad past. Three of those bridges are in remote areas (Alcovy River, West Bear Creek, and East Bear Creek). The Dried Indian Creek trestle is the only one visible from a roadway. With proximity to Covington City Hall and the Dried Indian Creek Wetlands, this particular trestle is certain to become one of the more iconic images of the trail.
As Newton Trails works to fund ongoing development of the Cricket Frog Trail, retrofitting this trestle to safely carry pedestrian and bicycle traffic will be a vital step to connect west/north Covington to the downtown area and to east/south Covington. To that end, Newton Trails has hired professionals to assess and make recommendations. This is why your continued financial support is so important.
So, the next time you walk, run, bike, skate, or stroll on the trail through downtown Covington, definitely look down at that concrete… Cause we’re still darned proud of it! But, also stop and look around. Spend a moment dreaming about all that’s yet to come.
The future is coming just as our amphibian namesake travels… by leaps and bounds!
See an interactive mapfor the Emory Street to Conyers Street section of trail.