The less than two-mile trail will tie into the Arabia Mountain Heritage Trails, which connect Stonecrest in Lithonia all the way to downtown Conyers.
Administering the plans for the trail is the PATH Foundation, a non-profit organization that has built nearly 180 miles of trails in metro Atlanta.
Executive Director Ed McBrayer said he approached Henry County officials about bringing the county into the network of surrounding trails and together, Transportation Enhancement Funds of $700,000 from the Georgia Department of Transportation were secured. The project will cost $875,000, with 80 percent coming from the GDOT funds and the PATH Foundation will provide $125,000 toward the required local match. Henry County will be responsible for $50,000, which will all be in-kind services.
The county had a public meeting at the Fairview Recreation Center to get residents’ opinions on where to construct the multi-use trail. McBrayer said right now, the only goal is to connect the middle school to the state park.
“We have to connect two dots with the money we’ve got and apparent destination for this trail to get Henry Connected in this system,” he said. “We’re looking for your guidance on how we connect Panola Mountain State Park to [Austin Road Middle School].”
Property owners in the area between the school and the park might wind up with a trail in their backyard.
“We are not here telling you we’re going to take your property,” McBrayer said. “We’re just here with hat in hand asking people if they’re willing to help connect the dots.”
He said the foundation would look to either accept land donations or buy out the small portion of property needed in order to construct the path.
Two different property owners voiced opposition to having a path run along their property, stating that it would disrupt their privacy.
McBrayer said in his experience of building paths along residential areas is that property values go up and the homeowners are pleased to live next to a trail. He said police presence in the area goes up as officers patrol more frequently, resulting in crime rates going down. He implored those feeling skeptical to visit residents living off of existing trails.
“I don’t think you’ll find anyone who doesn’t love the trail in their neighborhood,” he said.