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Gainesville puts Midtown Greenway on fast track
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In other business

Melvin Cooper, Gainesville Parks & Recreation director, presented the City Council with an update to the city’s law about possessing firearms in parks.

Current city code prohibits people from having items such as shotguns, air rifles, bows and explosive substances in a park.

The proposed ordinance is designed to bring the city in compliance with state law that took effect in 2010.

The amendment would change the ordinance to ban all weapons under state law except firearms as long as the person with the gun has a valid carry license. Other weapons are still not allowed to be discharged or exploded on or over park property, but firearms can be discharged in certain conditions and situations, including self-defense, with a governmental permit or as part of a historical re-enactment.

Sarah Mueller

Gainesville City Council wants to move faster on construction of Phase II of the Midtown Greenway.

The first phase of the greenway, which is a multiuse trail from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to north of Parker Street, was finished in 2012.

Phase II runs from MLK to Industrial Boulevard. Construction is currently scheduled for 2015, but city officials said at Thursday’s work session they’ll try hard for it to start in 2014.

“We believe we’re going to catch up and maybe move this ahead of schedule,” said Jessica Tullar, the city’s special projects manager. “Because right now, the way that (the Department of Transportation) has us set up is we’re putting it out to bid sometime (in) July 2015.”

Phase III includes extending the trail east to the Fair Street Neighborhood, and Phase IV extends south to the Central Hall Multiuse Trail that Hall County is developing.

Gainesville is paying for the construction costs with $500,000 from DOT enhancement funds, along with the city’s $125,000 local match.

The city’s trail is planned to connect with the pedestrian bridge that spans Jesse Jewell Parkway — linking downtown and midtown.

“I swear that bridge is going to be a bridge to somewhere,” said Councilman George Wangemann. “I can’t think of hardly a better landmark that we have here in Gainesville than that.”

The conceptual report for the second phase was approved and the city is working on the environmental studies it needs, Tullar said.

The east-west tie-in would require purchasing some property currently owned by railroad company CSX Corp. That portion would run from Grove Street to E.E. Butler Parkway. Gainesville officials are in discussions with CSX on a potential purchase price.

“We’re a captive audience there,” Community Development Director Rusty Ligon said. “We just don’t see that there’s going to be anybody else that’s interested in a 15-foot-wide (or) 20-foot-wide swath that’s linear, that crosses many pieces of property.”

Tullar said city officials may need to get creative to tie in Desota Park in Newtown to the greenway because the Blaze junkyard blocks the proposed pathway.

“Big picture is that they would all connect,” she said.

Tullar also talked about the southern part of the trail, which would be an integral point between the existing Rock Creek Greenway and the Central Hall trail, Tullar said. The greenway connects Rock Creek Park, Ivey Terrace Park, Wilshire Trails and Longwood Park.

The county multiuse trail is expected to start at Palmour Drive and link downtown Gainesville with the University of North Georgia’s Oakwood campus, Lanier Technical College, the Department of Labor office on Atlanta Highway and the Lanier Career Academy.

Past attempts to get more grant funding for the east-west connection and the southern connection have been unsuccessful, but Tullar hopes progress on Phase II construction will help future applications.

“Those grants are very political at the state level,” Tullar said. “But also, we didn’t have anything actually to connect it into; we hadn’t shown any progress.”

The trail construction will also include streetscaping, including trees, benches, trash cans and light fixtures.