Blazing Trails in Columbus: The Trust for Public Land Presents the 2019 Georgia Trail Summit May 5-6
George Dusenbury, Executive Director for The Trust for Public Land in Georgia
From the Appalachian Trail and the Silver Comet, to PATH 400 and the Atlanta BeltLine, the Aerotropolis and the Augusta Canal to the Chattahoochee Riverwalk in Columbus, Georgia is traversed by a multitude of trails that define communities, connect neighbors and get people outdoors. Whether you are a suburban parent pushing kids in a stroller or running for physical fitness, a city dweller walking with friends or biking to work, or a backcountry hiker or mountain bike enthusiast, Georgia’s trails serve everyone.
Yet there is a need for so much more. An alarming number of communities lack easy access to trails, and predictably, those areas without access are concentrated in underserved communities, both urban and rural.
That’s why The Trust for Public Land will convene non-profit leaders, city planners, elected officials, greenspace advocates, recreation enthusiasts, and others in May for the Georgia Trail Summit. This gathering will include exciting field experiences, inspiring speakers and engaging sessions designed to set into motion a shared vision for making Georgia a premier hiking, cycling, and paddling destination while also imagining how trails can become a greater part of everyday life for all Georgians.
We are developing the Georgia Trail Summit at a pivotal moment: with the passage of Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act (GOSA), which will provide consistent, reliable funding to advance greenspace protection and trails across the state, there are new resources to turn great ideas into reality.
Georgia is the 12th fastest growing state in the country, and continues to grow at a rate greater than one percent per year. According to a report released by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) in 2017, the region’s population is projected to reach more than 8.6 million by 2046, and while that growth is supportive of a strong local economy, it can come at a cost if not managed with an eye towards the future. According to INRIX’s 2016 Global Traffic Scorecard, Atlanta ranked eighth in the world for congestion, with the average commuter spending 70.8 hours in traffic each year. The need for recreation amenities, as well as alternate transportation options, is only going to increase. Thoughtful planning and smart investments today will pay off down the road so that all Georgians can enjoy the benefits of a connected community that supports walking and biking to work, our state’s incredible natural resources and the health and wellness outcomes of easily accessible, culturally relevant and safe outdoor recreation.
The opportunity is huge: outdoor recreation is critical to our state’s economy: 238,000 jobs depend on Georgia’s $27.3 BILLION outdoor recreation economy, generating $8.1 billion in wages and salaries and producing $1.8 billion annually in state and local tax revenue. Purposefully creating and improving trails gives opportunities for increased outdoor recreation and tourism revenue.
The Georgia Trail Summit is an extension of The Trust for Public Land’s commitment to ensuring all Americans can walk to a park within 10 minutes. While many Georgia communities score well on our 10-Minute Walk assessment, there is an incredible amount of potential to use trails to significantly improve access. Our state has everything we need to realize this vision, and we are designing the 2019 Georgia Trail Summit to catalyze a collective dialogue and define specific actions to make swift progress in the coming years.
As The Trust for Public Land builds from the successful Trail Summits convened in previous years by the Georgia Trail Alliance, we have brought together a team of volunteers who are designing a Summit that challenges participants to consider how trails, parks, waterways and other assets can define a new way of life in our state.
Featured image (top) -Credit: Aimee Copeland Foundation.