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New Chicopee trail section to open April 23 as part of Highlands to Islands Trail

POSTED: April 8, 2016 11:20 p.m.
ERIN O. SMITH/The Times

The Chicopee section of the Highlands to Islands Trail of the trail extends from Palmour Drive to the Georgia Department of Labor on Atlanta Highway. The new of the trail will open April 23 in a grand opening ceremony at Chicopee Baptist Church with a celebratory Highlands to Islands 5K to follow.

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A long-awaited new Gainesville walking and running trail has an official opening date.

The Highlands to Islands Trail: Chicopee Section will open Saturday, April 23, in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Chicopee Baptist Church, 13 First St. A celebratory Highlands to Islands 5-kilometer race will follow.

The new 11-foot wide, concrete trail extends roughly 2.5 miles from Palmour Drive to the Georgia Department of Labor on Atlanta Highway near Oakwood.

“It starts currently at Palmour Drive, which is the road that kind of runs around the airport,” said RK Whitehead with the Chicopee Section subcommittee. “It goes through the woods, through part of the Chicopee Woods Park, down in front of Chicopee Woods Village and in front of the golf course.”

The $2.3 million project is being funded by federal and Hall County SPLOST funds and is part of the larger Highlands to Islands Trail Alliance.

“The Highlands to Islands Trail is a rename of a hope that all of the individual trails that are across Hall County can be connected,” said Elizabeth Higgins with Vision 2030, a community project sponsored by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce to provide a common vision for the area in the year 2030. “They wanted to have continuity with different sections, so this is the Chicopee section of the Highlands to Islands Trail.”

A website for the trail has established by the H2I Vision 2030 Committee at highlandstoislands.org.

Whitehead said the trail ends about where the Department of Labor building is located on Atlanta Highway. Future plans involve using some state and federal money to extend the trail from that point across the railroad at Tumbling Creek bridge.

“They have some utility work to do, but they’re going to be putting a tunnel under Atlanta Highway that will come out kind of behind the labor department, and that’s where it’ll end, close to University of North Georgia,” Whitehead said.

The grand opening to celebrate the new portion of the trail will be at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, April 23, at Chicopee Baptist Church. The 5K will follow at 2 p.m. Registration for the run is $25. T-shirts and food will be available to all runners. The race is family, stroller and dog friendly.

“It’s going to all be on the trail, with a little bit in front of the Baptist church there,” Whitehead said. “It’s all open to the public, and we want families out there. We’re encouraging as many people to come out as possible.“

Higgins said the trail is worth celebrating because it’s a great new asset for the community.

“We’re trying to tie one of the divisions of Vision 2030 with the opening of the trail system,” she said. “...And utilizing these resources that we have in Hall County can help you live longer, happier and healthier.”



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