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Flowery Branch considers its plans for Highlands to Islands trail
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If greenspace amenities are pearls, Hall County could have quite a necklace with its planned Highlands to Islands trail.

Flowery Branch City Manager Bill Andrew used the analogy of pearls waiting to be strung to provide connectivity for walkers, runners and cyclists throughout Hall County.

A Monday meeting on the comprehensive plan for Flowery Branch focused much discussion on the project, which is being promoted by the Vision 2030 greenspace committee as a way to protect natural beauty, enhance quality of life and increase property values.

Avid cyclist Lisa Morris with Echo Wellness Center in downtown Flowery Branch said at the meeting that she often bikes on trails in North Hall or ventures to the Silver Comet trail because of a lack of trail connectivity closer to home.

Proposed plans for bicycling and pedestrian paths as well as park space are included in the South Hall city’s downtown redevelopment plan adopted in 2014, and point to where more greenspace development could happen.

There is potential for a public plaza at a new community center and city hall and a new passive park as well as smaller pocket parks. Trail connectivity from downtown to Lake Lanier could also be on the horizon, although funding is the deciding.

Funding is an issue for the Highlands to Islands trail initiatives across the county, though, so having the Flowery Branch project list align with that of the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization is key, said John McHenry, Flowery Branch community development director.

The city’s consultant, Jerry Weitz, also echoed how the funding component coordination as well as coordination between municipalities and Hall County will be essential for a cohesive trail.

The Vision 2030 greenspace committee hopes the trail becomes a brand with a common architectural look and design elements such as benches.

Shamsul Baker, transportation planning manager for the Gainesville-Hall MPO, shared a spreadsheet of the seven Flowery Branch bike and pedestrian projects on the wish list, with four as high priorities. McHenry had prepared a map outlining existing trails and showing envisioned projects.