Ed McBrayer, executive director of the PATH Foundation, was the main speaker at last Tuesday’s Cobb EMC Power Breakfast hosted by the Paulding County Chamber of Commerce in Dallas.
McBrayer told those attending about how it took 10 years, from 1998 to 2008, to build the trail.
The Silver Comet is 61.5 miles — stretching from south Cobb County through Paulding County to the Alabama state line in Polk County.
“It is the longest [paved] trail in the United States,” McBrayer said.
On Thursday, Brad Davis, senior planner with Atlanta-based ALTA Planning & Design, said at the unveiling of the Silver Comet Trail Economic Impact Analysis and Planning Study ALTA found about 1.9 million people use the trail each year.
The study was paid for by the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission and Georgia Department of Transportation using federal transportation enhancement funds, which are used on items other than roads and bridges.
McBrayer said communities that build recreation centers typically see about 15 percent of its residents use them. A paved trail attracts use from about 50 percent of residents, he said.
“When people are using the trail they are using it often,” Davis said.
The study showed how when people use the Silver Comet they spend money which goes into the local economy. On average each group of people using the trail spends up to $50 each time on water, snacks and at restaurants near the trail.
About $47 million per year is put in the local economies from people using the trail, said Brittain Storck, senior landscape architect for Durham-based ALTA.
“About 750 jobs are associated with the trail,” she said.
Home value increases between 4 and 7 percent within a quarter mile of the Silver Comet, the study found. About 400,000 people live within a four-mile radius of it.
At the trail’s Paulding Chamber trailhead in Dallas, Amanda Robertson of Dallas said she uses the trail three to four times a week. She said she brings her son Eli Robertson, 1, so she can spend time with him.
“I like having him outside,” she said. “It is usually really quiet.”
Eric Burse of Dallas said he either walks or rides his bicycle on the Silver Comet about three times a week, and brings his son E.J. Burse, 4, at least once a week.
He said his son enjoys seeing the different types of animals around the trail, such as deer, turkeys, rabbits and snakes.
“He [E.J.] loves getting outside,” Burse said.