Columbia County’s Greenspace Advisory Board gets dirty to map out trail
Members of Columbia County’s Greenspace Advisory Board took to the woods last week to weigh in on the proposed design of the section of the Euchee Creek Greenway Trail intended to connect the only two existing sections of the trail — Grovetown’s trail and the section built by the developers of the Canterbury Farms subdivision off of Chamblin Road.
Starting at the proposed trailhead at the Wrightsboro Road bridge over Euchee Creek in Grovetown, the board members accompanied Tom Dunaway, engineering division manager with WR Toole Engineers, and members of Columbia County’s Planning and Zoning and Engineering departments deep into the woods, following the little flags Dunaway had laid on a previous trip.
The flags represented the middle of the 10-foot-wide trail that everyone tried to envision.
The $20 million project is the Greenspace Advisory Board’s main focus, and according to board chairman Bill Corder, it has already been in negotiations with a landowner on the other side of Canterbury Farms.
“We’ve got verbal agreements to get from there all the way out to I-20,” he said. “That will be our next project after this one, and we’re actively trying to get some grant money to make it happen.”
Eventually, the Euchee Creek Greenway Trail will stretch from Grovetown all the way to Riverside Park, some 23 miles away.
Though a $250,000 grant from the Department of Transportation made the mapped out section a possibility, it was the DOT’s decision to bring the Grovetown trail under the new Wrightsboro Road bridge a few years ago that really kick started the project.
“If we had to try to figure out how to get our trail under Wrightsboro Road — it just wasn’t feasible,” Corder said. “When that happened, which was a year or two after Euchee Creek trail got put in at Canterbury Farms, we realized we could make this connection, so we put the priority here so we could connect to something that was already existing.”
Thanks to a wide, cleared sewer easement, the beginning of the new trail section seemed fairly conventional, though the straight shot proved to be misleading. Instead of following the wide, cleared path, the little flags almost immediately veered off into the woods.
Dunaway said he wanted to avoid running the trail down the middle of the sewer easement in the event the water department would have to conduct maintenance on the pipe. Besides that, hikers and bikers crave shade even that close to the trailhead. However, because of the cost of clearing away the trees and undergrowth and the desire for a flowing trail, Dunaway was careful not to move the trail too far into the woods… or too close to the creek, which has a buffer they want to avoid.
With the advisory board signing off on the trail, wetlands delineators will come through and then a survey crew will map out the trail and send it to the Corps of Engineers for approval.
Corder said the corps doesn’t normally make a lot of comments, though it will still take them a couple of months to evaluate the plan.
“They’ll look at the overall impact and decide if they feel like there are any impacts to wetlands and if that needs to be compensated for,” Corder said. “If you’re impacting a lot of wetlands, they may say, ‘Well, we really think you ought to mitigate,’ which basically means paying a fee to another land owner to preserve some wetlands permanently to make up for the fact that we had to fill some in.”
Wetlands, however, aren’t necessarily as obvious as the muddy bog that captured the county’s utility vehicle and sent everyone leapfrogging through the axel-deep mud.
“Some wetlands are what people think of, and some of them are weed-choked, overgrown rat holes,” Corder said. “But it’s a federal requirement that doesn’t distinguish — they’re all protected equally.”
As a civil and environmental engineer, Corder has plenty of experience with this type of project.
Though the trail is a time-consuming, expensive proposition, planner Charlie Andrews said it helps developers sell their homes and improves the area at large.
“It really helps out with the aesthetics and with trying to sell lots and improve the quality of life,” he said. “Once this middle piece connects into the Grovetown portion and Canterbury Farms, we’re going to have over two miles of continuous trails, so when people look to sell their property or to sell lots, they’re going to be able to maintain that value because of the proximity to the trail.”
And according to Dunaway, field-fitting the trail to the environment allows them to avoid certain trees they think will be valuable to the project. He marked these trees with ribbon and said he will walk the trail with the surveyor to make sure each tree they want protected remains protected.
After blasting the utility vehicle out of the mud and then abandoning it when the woods got too thick, the Greenspace group stumbled through anthills and trudged by a beaver dam for another 40 minutes until it eventually caught up with the end of the Canterbury Farm’s portion of the trail.
It happened to be on the other side of the creek, but after imagining so much trail, it wasn’t all that difficult to imagine the bridge that would connect the two.
“It’s going to be a nice trail,” Corder said, nodding his head slightly. “And it’s about time, too.” You Might Also Like: