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Scaled-back version of Central Hall trail to begin construction in 2015
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Work is poised to begin early next year on a section of trail between Gainesville and Oakwood, but not quite to the extent Hall County officials had hoped.

In the making for nearly a decade, the first stretch of the Central Hall Multi-use Trail was slated to travel nearly 3 miles from Palmour Drive in Gainesville to Lanier Technical College and University of North Georgia-Gainesville.

“With (the project) taking so long to get to the bidding process, some of the funding has been reassigned to other projects,” said Jody Woodall, Hall road projects manager.

About $300,000 has been shaved from the original budget, “so we’re building as much as the funding allows,” he added.

“We’re going to carry it as far toward Lanier Tech property as we can,” Woodall said.

The trail specifications are changing, too. Plans call for a 10-foot asphalt trail, instead of a 12-foot concrete one.

“Benches and trash cans are included in the project,” Woodall said. “There (is) some replanting of some trees in the Chicopee Village area ....

“And then there’s a little bit of landscaping around the (state) Department of Labor as the trail goes very close to the building there.”

The trail follows largely along Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway, cutting through a section of historic Chicopee Village. Bicyclists and pedestrians will be able to cross underneath Atlanta Highway.

“There will be a few trails that would have to come down (in Chicopee),” Woodall said. “We’re going to have an arborist to try to minimize what would be done in the village area.

“There might be two or three trees that we just couldn’t physically (build) a trail around.”

That aspect of the work hasn’t necessarily thrilled Chicopee residents.

“We’re not against change, per se, only that which represents a threat to the historic integrity, property values or aesthetic appeal of Chicopee Village,” said Andrea Chastain, president of the Association of Chicopee Village Residents.

The community dates to the 1920s when Johnson & Johnson built the Chicopee Mill. At one time, the village featured its own general store, barbershop, clinic and school.

The $2.3 million trail project is being funded by federal dollars and the county’s special purpose local option sales tax.

There are future phases for the trail network, but funding will remain the key issue.

“Our primary funding source would be an additional SPLOST,” Woodall said.

Hall County and its municipalities are eyeing a March 17 referendum on the five-year extension of the 1 percent sales tax for capital projects. If approved by voters, it would take effect July 1.

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