Leake Mounds — Etowah RiverWalk Connector Trail to officially open Thursday

With the Leake Mounds — Etowah RiverWalk Connector Trail officially opening Thursday, the city of Cartersville will be one step closer to creating a connecting trail system.

"The latest addition to our city trail system is fantastic, and it provides yet another recreation opportunity for our community," Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini said. "The Cartersville 2030 Plan that was created in the early 2000s has a goal of having an interlocking trail system.

"We are now only lacking the last piece to make that happen," he said, referring to linking the Leake Mounds — Etowah RiverWalk Trail with the Pettit Creek Trail. "[The Leake Mounds — Etowah RiverWalk Connector] Trail connects Sam Smith Park with the boat launch area off Highway 113. While much of the funding was through grants, completing the project was not a simple task. [Cartersville Parks and Recreation Department Director] Greg Anderson and our staff worked closely with the [Georgia Department of Transportation] and other agencies to figure out the best location and construction style for the bridge to [cross] the Etowah River. He also had to work with several private property owners to secure the land needed to build this trail. Greg and the many people he worked with on this are to be commended for a job well done. I expect this trail to be used a great deal by walkers, runners and cyclists as the warmer weather sets in."

Spanning 1.7 miles, the connector trail links the Leake Mounds Interpretive Trail with the Etowah RiverWalk.

"The multiuse trail is 10 feet wide and approximately 1.7 miles, starts/ends at [the] northwest section of Etowah RiverWalk, at Soccer Complex, located in Sam Smith Park and ends/starts at the Leake Mounds trailhead, located on Highway 113/61 at before you cross the Etowah River," Anderson said. "It is constructed for walkers, runners, [bicyclists] or any nonmotorized vehicle. The trail has four different surfaces: asphalt, standard concrete, wood for boardwalk and bridge, and porous concrete. The porous concrete was used as a stormwater measure and is on two sections of the trail and in the parking area at the Leake Mounds trailhead. The pedestrian bridge spans approximately 140 feet across Pettit Creek.

"For me, [the connector trail's opening] has been a long time coming, and there was several times I wasn’t sure that trail would ever be built. Of course the trail was/is well received by the public, and Cartersville City Council kept funding the design and testing of the project [over] the years. There were a few city budget cycles that funding was a major [concern] and specifically a budget year five [to] six years ago that the trail project was being cut, but [former] Councilwoman Dianne Tate spoke up and was able to get a minimum amount in [the] budget, just enough to keep the project on [life] support with Georgia DOT for the year. It worked, because the citizens voted in 2014 for the park improvements, including the trail funding. Also Jeff Lewis, a [local] resident and Georgia DOT District 11 board member, was able to provide assistance."

Along with Leake Mounds Interpretive and Pettit Creek trails, Cartersville's more than 18-mile trail system also features paths at Pine Mountain Recreation Area, Dellinger Park, Sam Smith Park and Cartersville Sports Complex.

"The concept of trail connectivity for the Cartersville Parks and Recreation trail system began around 2003 during a city council visioning session," Anderson said. "The city of Cartersville had acquired Milam Farm — Sam Smith Park/237 acres [in June 2000] — and accepted the donation of the Pine Mountain property/229 acres. Community trails were very popular and the citizens of Cartersville wanted additional safe places to walk and run or bike. The Etowah RiverWalk was recently completed and Pine Mountain [Recreation] Area trail was also in the planning stages.

"The Georgia DOT Transportation Enhancement Grants provided a funding source [for the Leake Mounds — Etowah RiverWalk Connector Trail]. We were approved in two grant cycles for a total of $1.61 million [in grant money]," he said, adding the trail was designed by Southland Engineering and built by Lewallen Construction. "… Now the trail is very near completion. Our park patrons have been watching with anticipation the trail construction and with the pedestrian bridge and last section of concrete being poured about 10 days ago, they are now flocking to the new trail."

Thrilled to see Cartersville's trail system expand over the years, Anderson encourages area residents to utilize this community "asset." 

"I started at Cartersville Parks and Recreation [in] 1981 and at that time, the only trail was the 1.3 mile Dellinger Park walking trail and that walking trail was our most [used] facility. I have always remembered that, and through the years our park patrons and city council [have] continued to support additional trails and improvements to existing trails.

"All day and evening, all weeklong and on weekends, the Cartersville trails continue to be the most used venue(s) in our parks, and there is nothing more rewarding for me to see a lot of trail users — both individuals and families — walking or biking, using these trails. I do think that [Cartersville's] trails [are a] definite asset to our community, and if you are [not] taking advantage of your local trails, you should start. You will enjoy the exercise, enjoy the parks and have a much better quality of life."

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