Long-Awaited Firefly Trail Takes First Steps in Athens

After nearly seven years of planning, the much anticipated Firefly Trail is finally being built.

The Firefly Trail, a proposed 39-mile rail-trail, will be constructed along the now abandoned historic route of the Georgia railroad running from Athens to Union Point. When finished, it will be the 3rd longest trail in the state of Georgia.

Construction for the first .8 miles of the trail, which will run from East Broad Street all the way out to Old Winterville and Lexington Road, is currently underway in Athens-Clarke County.

“Just yesterday the crane was driving the pilings for the bridge across the North Oconee river in Athens,” said Gary Hedrick, member of the Firefly Trail Inc. board of directors. “So by the end of this year there will be .8 of a mile completed in Athens Clarke county.”

But that is only the beginning.

There is an additional 7 miles of the Firefly trail proposed to run through Athens-Clarke County. The fate of that project rests in the hands of Athens’ voters, who will get a chance to approve or turn down its funding on the T-SPLOST vote this coming November.

And while there is widespread support for the trail among bicyclists and recreationalists, there are nearly 200 private property owners that hold land throughout its proposed route, who could have a say in its construction.

Hedrick thinks, however, that if given more information about the trail, the public will most likely support its construction.

“When citizens really find out what a rail to trail path is, that smooth grade that makes it easier to be used, they are generally excited about it and they see the benefit to the community,” said Hedrick.

Despite the potential bumps along the way, trail advocates feel that Firefly has a bright future ahead of it.

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By: Christina Matacotta