(TNS) -- JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville State University researchers plan to soon install technology to accurately measure use on the Chief Ladiga Trail, area government officials learned Tuesday.
With an accurate count of the people using the 33-mile Chief Ladiga that also differentiates between runners and cyclists, area communities can likely obtain more state and federal grant money to maintain or upgrade their sections of the trail, a JSU official says.
The reveal was part of a two-hour-long summit at the Houston Cole Library at JSU Tuesday that brought together representatives from every area government invested in the trail, including the cities of Anniston, Jacksonville, Piedmont, Weaver and the Calhoun County Commission. The summit gave officials the chance to brief each other on what they’ve done recently for their sections of the trail and to share ideas on how to improve and promote it.
The Chief Ladiga is a paved trail converted from abandoned rail lines that stretches from the Georgia state line to Michael Tucker Park in Anniston.
Jennifer Green, director of the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at JSU, said the university bought the latest counter devices to install along the trail by July. Green said three counters would be installed at the beginning, middle and end of the trail.
“These are the same counters used by the National Park Service,” Green said. “They can differentiate between riders and walkers and give the most accurate count.”
More accurate counts can truly show how much the trail is used and whether it's growing in popularity.
“We hope the new count can give you the opportunity for grant money,” Green said to the government officials.
Green said the plan is to accrue six months worth of data from the counters, then create an economic impact study of the trail. Green said her center made a similar study for Anniston several years ago, but that one used visitor logs to estimate use.
“The count will give a more realistic economic impact,” Green said. “And over time, we can also show where usage is increasing.”
Also during the meeting, Kent Davis, Anniston city manager, said the city was still working hard on its long delayed project to extend the Ladiga 7.2 miles into downtown Anniston.
Davis said the city was negotiating with the Anniston Water Works and Sewer Board and the Virginia-based Norfolk Southern Corporation, which own the remaining land needed to extend the trail.
“I think we’re getting very close,” Davis said of obtaining the land. “We’ve surveyed the corridor and submitted a right-of-way map to the Alabama Department of Transportation … we hope ALDOT will approve the map and then we can acquire the property.”
Several of the attendees brought up the need to better advertise the trail. Patrick Wigley, owner of Wigs Wheels in Anniston, said the trail could benefit from merchandising.
“There’s nothing for anybody to buy around here,” Wigley said.
A few of the attendees agreed to work with the city of Piedmont, which holds the copyright for the trail’s official logo, to possibly create some merchandise that visitors could buy.
“It’s just such an asset to have it,” Jacksonville Mayor Johnny Smith said of the trail. “It brings in so many people.”
©2017 The Anniston Star (Anniston, Ala.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.