Lawrenceville – The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved the Countywide Trails Master Plan, which ultimately will create a seamless, interconnected web of bike and pedestrian pathways for recreation, commuting or running errands.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlotte Nash described the connections that will result from the master plan a major amenity that will benefit everyone across the board.
"This plan will serve as the blueprint for expanding Gwinnett's trail system in the future and tying it to trail networks across the County and beyond. I am especially excited by the level of cooperation between the Gwinnett cities and the County," Nash said.
As part of the 320-mile network of trails, the study proposes nine "Signature Trails," regionally significant trails with amenities, connectivity between destinations and other defining features that will set the standard for the county and the region. Some, such as the Sugar Hill Greenway, are being built by cities. Others will stretch across multiple cities and connect to neighboring counties or cities. Many of the Signature Trails are included in the plan's Core Trail Network, a series of trails that are envisioned to be built by 2040.
The long-term goal may take decades to implement depending on funding so the plan recommended some quick-win projects, such as the Western Gwinnett Bikeway, a proposed 18-mile trail located along Peachtree Industrial Boulevard from Suwanee to Peachtree Corners, and part of the Harbins Greenway, a 17.4-mile trail connecting Harbins Park to Bay Creek Park to Tribble Mill Park to Loganville.
District 1 Commissioner Jace Brooks said the trail system will enable residents to expand their horizons and see new places and new things.
"People get tired of doing the same short route day in and day out. This will allow them to walk, run or bicycle longer distances and explore new areas of the county," said Brooks.
One future project being discussed is the Chattahoochee Trail Network, a 100-mile, regional trail along the river from Buford Dam to Newnan that would require partnerships among multiple agencies. Gwinnett officials have already met with the National Park Service and surrounding cities to explore ways to help build the trail.
The trails master plan, which was the result of a Board of Commissioners strategy session, was developed with public input as well as buy-in from county agencies working in tandem with cities and community improvement districts.
District 2 Commissioner Lynette Howard sees an added benefit from the countywide trail network – a stronger community.
"It's great that we have all these partners coming together to make all sorts of connections in Gwinnett County through this system of trails," Howard said. "As parts of the master plan are completed, the trails will really start to connect Gwinnett as one community."
The study settled on two types of trails – the off-road trail, a concrete path up to 14 feet wide that follows its own alignment or possibly a stream or utility corridor and costs between $3.2 million and $3.5 million per mile, and a side path, an asphalt trail that runs adjacent to roadways with a buffer between users and traffic and costs between $2.4 million and $2.5 million per mile.
Possible revenue sources would include SPLOST, cities, CIDs, state and federal funds, nonprofits, institutions and private entities, such as developers.
District 3 Commissioner Tommy Hunter said more trails will provide fun options for families.
"This will be another way for families to be able to get out of the house, get some exercise, and just enjoy being outdoors with each other to spend quality time together," Hunter said.
District 4 Commissioner John Heard asserts quality amenities have an economic development benefit as well.
"These types of improvements can be a significant draw in recruiting new businesses," said District 4 Commissioner John Heard. "Businesses want happy employees, and this kind of amenity appeals to a lot of people. It's just one more reason why Gwinnett County is the best place in the country to do business."