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Flowery Branch looking at multiuse paths study

POSTED: August 18, 2013 11:39 p.m.

Flowery Branch wants to study the potential for a series of bike and pedestrian paths in South Hall County, possibly even a network that links Gainesville to Gwinnett County.

City officials got the blessing last week for the $50,000 endeavor from the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Committee, with $40,000 coming from the MPO and $10,000 from yet-undesignated local governments.

The MPO is Hall County’s lead road planning group and the policy committee, made up of top elected officials in Hall and a Georgia Department of Transportation representative, its decision-making body.

The South Hall city plans to hire Norcross-based engineering firm Pond & Co. for the project, Mayor Mike Miller said.

Pond & Co. has worked with Flowery Branch in other efforts, including a recent downtown development analysis, and is developing a master transportation plan for Gainesville.

“We think this will be a great connectivity between all the four-lane roads that eventually with be (in South Hall),” Miller said.

He cited the expansion of Ga. 347, which is now taking place in two phases between McEver Road and Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway, and plans to eventually widen the heavily congested Spout Springs Road between Interstate 985 and Thompson Mill Road.

“In theory, you could get on a bike in the city of Gainesville and go south and take access to the parks in Gwinnett County, if you wanted to,” Miller said.

“That would get them off the roads,” Mayor Danny Dunagan said.

One of Hall’s largest neighborhoods, Sterling on the Lake, in Flowery Branch, lies between Spout Springs and Ga. 347/Friendship Road.

Sterling has some multiuse paths and sits next to Bragg Road, which connects to Cherokee Bluffs Park.

“(Bragg) would be a natural multiuse path,” Miller said. “It’s almost already done, essentially.”

In August 2011, the Flowery Branch City Council voted to close its 3,964-foot portion of Bragg, a two-lane dirt road that had served as a motorists’ cut-through and illegal dumping ground.

Miller said he doesn’t think the study will end up costing as much as $50,000.

“We’ll have to get in and refine it,” he said.

Miller noted Pond’s downtown area study could tie in with multiuse paths.

“We don’t know,” he said. “That’s kind of what we’re looking for (from the study).”

Miller didn’t have a time frame for the effort.

“We’re so far away with Spout Springs right now that we’re just looking, trying to be proactive,” he said, adding that such a study “is not first on our radar, but we really want it on the radar.”

Gainesville and Hall County already have trails in place or have been busy planning other such areas.

The Rock Creek Greenway is one of the most popular walking trails in Gainesville, with a 2-mile path from downtown Gainesville through Ivey Terrace, Wilshire and Longwood parks to the shores of Lanier.

Plans call for the Midtown Greenway to eventually connect with the Wilshire Trail route. Currently, the 12-foot-wide paved trail runs for a mile along an old CSX railway from Mule Camp Springs to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The trail begins at 682 Grove St.

And Hall County is planning the Central Hall Multiuse Trail, which involves three phases: a segment between Palmour Drive and the Georgia Department of Labor Office, 2756 Atlanta Highway, running parallel to Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway; a segment behind Lanier Technical College and the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus; and construction of a pedestrian tunnel under Atlanta Highway.

Bidding on the three phases has been pushed off to April “to allow for the Indiana bat studies,” said Jody Woodall of the Hall County engineering department.

The Indiana bat is a federally threatened or endangered species that has been spotted in Georgia. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the bat was listed as an endangered species in 1967 “due to episodes of people disturbing hibernating bats in caves during winter and killing large numbers of bats.”


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