If built as planned, the campground would include more than two dozen sites on about eight acres of land, a portion of which borders the trail. Extra lodging sites would be especially useful for out-of-town cyclists, who sometimes have a hard time finding a place to stay overnight along the trail, according to people in Piedmont.
“As sad as it is, they stay in their car,” said Jeff Formby, director of the Parks and Recreation Department.
Sometimes cyclists also camp out at the city sports complex, sometimes they pedal to Jacksonville to stay at the Hampton Inn or they stop to sleep at the Chief Ladiga Trail Campground about 10 miles north of the city. At least one family recently camped along the trail, said Jack Holder, director of the Eubanks Welcome Center in Piedmont. But Holder, who greets hundreds of cyclists each year, said trail-goers still want more lodging options even though there is at least one lodging business in the city.
“There is a need for it and that’s part of developing this trail,” Holder said.
A set of black-and-white drawings show a small RV park on a corner lot of land near the city’s new pool and “pods” of tent camping sites spread out in wooded areas near trail. The professional drawings were drafted by Goodwin, Mills and Cawood, a professional firm that has helped area cities develop projects before.
“We’re going to start out kind of small and see where it goes,” said Carl Hinton, special projects coordinator.
Although the city wants to begin building the park for cyclists, the project is still only in the planning stages and it won’t be developed without a vote of approval by the City Council, said Mayor Rick Freeman. Freeman, who supports the project, said he hopes to include funding for it in the next year’s budget, which will be drafted in the coming weeks.
He said the campsite is one way the city can help develop the trail to draw people to the city.
“We need this to sell our trail more,” Freeman said, referring to the Ladiga.
City employees would have to level the ground and extend utilities to the RV lots, but little work would have to be done to prepare the tent camping sites, he said. Employees would have to extend water lines from a nearby main and add underground wiring for the RV sites, the officials said.
City officials haven’t estimated a cost for the project, but an earlier plan to develop a camping park in Piedmont was expected to cost $100,000. That plan, which was to be funded by a grant and built by contractors, was axed in 2007 because city officials believed they could develop a camping park for less than half of that.
“It just wasn’t a good time to pursue it,” Formby said.
Now that the city is planning to do the work with supplies it already owns, city leaders think they might be able to begin leveling the ground as early as this fall. Hinton said the city has to complete other recreational projects, including city pool construction, civic center renovations and a ballpark restoration at the Bethune Center.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.