In 2011, those officials are still trying to make that community a reality.
The Calhoun County Metropolitan Planning Organization began the process of updating its Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan Thursday with a public forum to solicit input on future projects. The current plan for the county was last revised in 2003. It included projects that would expand the Chief Ladiga bicycle trail to downtown Anniston, McClellan and ultimately the proposed Coldwater Mountain bike trails.
If Thursday’s meeting was any indication, not much will change in the new plan.
“Our 2003 plan is a little out of date,” said Jack Plunk, a principal planner with East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission. “It’s time that we take a look at it and update it.”
The major construction plans of the 2003 report — all involving extending some part of the Ladiga Trail — were the focal points of discussion at the forum.
“A few of those projects may no longer be possible,” Plunk said. “Some of our funding services are a bit iffy.”
But the organization hopes many of the projects from 2003 are still obtainable in the near future. Most of the discussion Thursday centered on connecting the future Coldwater Mountain bicycle trails to downtown Anniston through a trail or system of trails. The ideal connector would be through the Amtrak station on Fourth Street, which the city also plans to connect to the Ladiga trail in north Anniston.
Rod Wilburn of J.R. Wilburn and Associates outlined a three-step plan of exploring possible routes from the downtown area to Coldwater Mountain — a four-month survey which would overlap with the planning organization’s own plan update.
“This is a continuation with what Anniston has already been trying to do,” Wilburn said.
Wilburn cautioned residents that the survey would not necessarily lead to construction, but was a key step in obtaining funds and said it was possible the trail could be built in segments over many years.
“There’s no doubt this will be a phasing exercise here,” Wilburn said. “Let’s not forgo the chance to get something out here.”
Anniston City Planner Toby Bennington was also on hand at the forum to answer questions about extending the Ladiga Trail to the Amtrak station. Currently the city is working on securing funds from the Appalachian Regional Commission to acquire property to extend the trail.
“It still remains a priority to complete the trail,” Bennington said. “And beginning this planning stage is key to starting that project.”
The connection of the trail to the Amtrak station would allow cyclists and pedestrians from out of town easy access to Ladiga, but East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission executive director Bill Curtis pointed out the county’s fixed-route bus system, which stops at the Amtrak station and the trail’s starting point at Tucker Memorial Park near Weaver, is equipped with bike racks for safe transportation.
“They don’t have to fight traffic” to access the trail, Curtis said.
Bennington said the priority of connecting the trail to downtown has meant that plans to connect the Ladiga Trail to McClellan by passing over Alabama 21 have been abandoned, but could be revisited. A proposed trail extension and parking lot stopping just shy of Alabama 21 could still also be completed.
Not everything in the 2003 plan will need to be revised. Plunk said the county has made strides and in particular noted the installation of nearly 40 bicycle racks in urbanized areas, sidewalk construction around Jacksonville State University, educational programs in local area schools and establishment of a Bicycle Advisory Council in Jacksonville as points of progress in the pedestrian and bicycle communities.
The organization plans to meet again in late January or early February 2012.
Metropolitan planning organizations are federally mandated and funded committees of local officials tasked with assessing transportation needs for their areas.
Star staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546