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Community begs county leaders for multi-use trails

McDONOUGH —Suwanee has the Suwanee Creek Greenway, Atlanta has the Beltline, Cobb County has the Silver Comet trail while Henry County has nothing that compares.

Runners, bikers, walkers and families in Henry County are limited to sidewalks and roads to get their exercise, and not without a price.

Several community members challenged the Henry County Board of Commissioners in a recent meeting to consider a multi-use pathway to get people off the roads and onto a safer path.

“Honestly, we’ve had several injuries over the past year even from runners who are running the sidewalks,” said Stephanie Middlebrooks with Atlanta Southside Runners. “Typically we run in the roads. Of course, drivers don’t like this, but we had a runner just recently, probably less than a month ago, she tripped over one of the manholes and broke her collarbone or her shoulder and ended up having surgery and several pins put in for it.”

Middlebrooks added that not even the sidewalks are safe anymore because they buckle in certain areas and people trip and injure themselves.

Middlebrooks said nearly 30 to 40 runners and nearly 40 to 60 cyclists can be seen on the roads on any given day, and it’s causing a hazard for both drivers and the individuals since cars have been known to come within arms length of those trying to exercise.

“Right now, a lot of the times we run on the road and it’s very dangerous for us,” said Clay Loyd, president of Atlanta Southside Runners. “The pathways would give us and others like us, a larger group of us, opportunity to run in a safe area.”

He said the pathways could provide the county with more tourism, more business growth and better health opportunities for children and families.

“The pathways in other counties in other parts of the state have proven very safe for bikers, as well as runners, as well as walkers,” Loyd said. “The counties those pathways have been expanded in have continued to grow, outreaching Henry County in many ways. When we want a safe place to run, or ride, on the weekends we typically travel to those counties so that’s a lot of traveling we do so we can have a safe place area.”

Middlebrooks said when she and a group travel to other pathways around the state, they typically buy lunch and gas, which is money Henry County could tap into if they built a similar trail.

And when asked, the majority of the audience, indicated they would use a trail system if Henry County had one.

“The desire is strong in the community and community involvement and the wants and needs in development,” Elton Alexander told the board, stating it’s time for the board to push forward in developing a “world-class Henry County.”

However, the board did not indicate any future action with the community’s request at that time.