The Chief Ladiga Trail has been an ongoing project for the City of Anniston, Alabama and the residents of Calhoun County for many years.  As the state’s first rails to trails venture, the Chief Ladiga Trail presently extends from the Michael Tucker Park area of North Anniston and traverses the towns of Weaver, Jacksonville, and Piedmont.  Allowing non-motorized and pedestrian traffic only, the paved trail extends all the way to the Georgia state line where it connects to the Silver Comet Trail.  Collectively, the Silver Comet/ Chief Ladiga Trail complex is one of the longest paved trails in the United States and provides a 90 mile corridor of travel from just West of Atlanta, Georgia to its terminus in Calhoun County.  And recently, important steps were taken to extend the trail into downtown Anniston, Alabama.

Two weeks ago Anniston Mayor Jack Draper and Ed Turner, the general manager of the Anniston Water Works and Sewer Board, held a press conference announcing the city’s acquisition of property that will facilitate the completion of the trail.  “This will take us a long way on the path of truly making Anniston a cyclist’s dream destination,” Draper said during the document signing conference.  Turner praised the city’s efforts saying, “I think this administration is really moving things light years ahead of where it was.”  The city is currently still in negotiations with Norfolk Southern Railways concerning the acquisition of property that will facilitate the construction of the trail from Michael Tucker Park to the Multi Modal Center in downtown Anniston.

In recent years, Calhoun County and the City of Anniston have taken steps to provide more outdoor recreation opportunities for its citizens.  From expanded mountain bike trails and the development of a horse camp and horseback riding trails on the facilities at McClellan, to the city’s present efforts to purchase the property for the completion of the Chief Ladiga Trail, current leadership is making a concerted effort to take advantage of the regions natural resources.  The Draper administration acknowledges the benefits that ecotourism can bring to an area that provides the proper facilities, and has demonstrated a willingness to work with local and national entities to facilitate the development of the needed recreation infrastructure.  Assuming the city is able to secure an agreement with Norfolk Southern Railways regarding the remaining property necessary to complete the trail, the city and the region’s reputation as a premier cycling destination in the United States would be bolstered considerably.  The Chief Ladiga Trail has become a valuable asset to a city and county that benefits greatly from the recreational opportunity that the thoroughfare offers.  And judging by the mayor’s comment that, “This is huge for Anniston’s future, both for economic development, for ecotourism and really for quality of life for our residents,” it is evident that the City of Anniston is committed to developing viable long term economic growth and recreation opportunities for the citizens of the city, county, and the surrounding region.

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