The idea of a multi-use trail system throughout Newnan and Coweta County is now a reality and the new trail system will have many economic benefits for the community as whole, according to Jim Thomasson, an advocate for the trail system and local businessman.
Thomasson was the speaker at YP Morning Buzz, Thursday, May 25 at the PetSmart Distribution Center in Newnan. The morning buzz is hosted by The Young Professionals, an arm of the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce.
Last week both the Newnan City Council and the Coweta County Board Of Commissioners gave the green light to accept a master plan proposed for creating the “LINC” – a 25.5 multi-use trail system that aims to connect the east and west sides of Newnan with all trails leading to the downtown business district.
The Council gave the green light for the LINC #4, or the Newnan (Nixon) Centre Connection.
The connection will link Newnan Crossing Boulevard to the Nixon Centre, Newnan Crossing Elementary School, and the residential neighborhoods along Highwoods Parkway and Shenandoah Boulevard.
The total distance for the connection is approximately 1.6 miles and comes with a $2,198,787 price tag, according to developers.
Providing safe routes to school for Newnan Crossing Elementary and connecting the various areas to promote a future “live, work, play” development was the primary motivating factor in developing this particular segment first.
Economic impact of trails
As far as business opportunities and the economic impact of the trails, Ed McBrayer, executive director of the PATH Foundation, said the possibilities are endless at the Mayor’s Luncheon earlier this year.
PATH, formed about 26 years ago, is a public-private partnership that has built more than 260 miles of greenway trails, raised more than $80 million from the private sector for trail development and caused $130 million to be allocated from public sector. The Silver Comet Trail is an example of the success of Path’s approach.
“Trails add sales tax revenue without new infrastructure,” he said. “They keep people coming from all over the place. Trails also increase tourism from adjacent jurisdictions
and are a catalyst for new business and development.”
It is McBrayer's opinion that within the next 10 years, employers will be flocking to areas that include trails and the quality of life they provide.
“Trails help retain a younger population and attracts retirees,” he said. “Trails also encourage the revitalization of adjacent properties and increase nearby property values, thereby increasing tax digest, which we didn’t expect.”
McBrayer said all properties within a quarter of a mile of the Silver Comet Trail in Atlanta saw increased property values.
The Atlanta Beltway and Carrollton’s GreenBelt are two similar projects in adjoining counties, and there also are similar projects underway in LaGrange and in the south Georgia city of Albany.
McBrayer said Carrollton has seen more economic activity since the completion of its trail two months ago. The trail was in the works for almost six years before being completed.
Economic effects on Coweta
Thomasson also agreed that property values will increase in Coweta, and the county will provide a better quality of life because of LINC. Thomasson is also a member of The Coweta Area Trail System (CAT), a committee that advocates for the trail.
“Five to seven years from now, if you live in downtown Newnan, you will be able to ride your bike to Highway 34,” Thomasson said.
Thomasson said as the trails are completed, the demand to be near them will increase.
“This will have a positive impact on community,” Thomasson said. “Spread the news about property values increasing and not decreasing.”
Thomasson referred to other communities listing property for sale and specifying it being on the trail. He said this is already evident in Coweta. Properties that are for sale and near the proposed trail route or head are already advertising just that.
Thomasson encouraged the young professionals to continue to spread the word of the benefits and to vote in November when Cowetans decide whether or not to extend the one cent sales tax for capital projects or the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, another six years. The current SPLOST expires in December of 2018.
“You’re young and will grow old in this community,” Thomasson said. “At this moment in time, you can’t afford to be passive as a community leader. Share the information.”
Newnan-Coweta Chamber President and CEO Candace Boothby encouraged the young professionals to make sure they were registered to vote.
According to americantrails.org, a national nonprofit organization working on behalf of all trail interests, there are many ways that trails and greenways affect the local and national economies, including:
Health care savings
Jobs and investment
General consumer spending