Dalton, Ga., Constructs Greenway for Hikers, Bikers
The Ocoee River near Dalton, GA
With its diverse landscape of mountains and rolling hills, the Greater Dalton area is full of natural escapes and close enough to the Ocoee River for white-water rafting getaways.
“We've got mountains and cliffs all over the place,” says Tim Larkin, a local business owner and outdoor enthusiast.
The affinity for the outdoors that Greater Dalton residents share comes to the area naturally. Surrounded by a diverse landscape of mountains, curving roads, rolling hills and natural escapes, the city is a magnet for all kinds of outdoor lovers, from casual hikers to extreme bikers.
“We've got mountains and cliffs all over the place,” says Tim Larkin, a local business owner and outdoor enthusiast, “so of course there's plenty of hiking and biking trails, parks and playgrounds for the family.”
Larkin, who owns Precise Home Inspection and moved to Dalton nine years ago, says the city's proximity to nature is one of its top advantages. Dalton is just 25 miles south of Chattanooga, Tenn. — close enough for locals to spend weekends rock climbing at Lookout Mountain or whitewater rafting down the Ocoee River.
Larkin names the region's Blue and Red Park, Disney Trail and its multiple recreation facilities among his favorite local outdoor haunts. Other popular hiking and biking trails include Snake Creek Gap Mountain Bike Trail, Varnell Springs and the Pinhoti Trail, which connects to the Appalachian Trail.
Rolling out a Greenway
Thanks to federal and state grants and an expansive greenway plan known as the "Green Hat," the city's already impressive recreation scene is about to get an extreme makeover.
“We thought the term ‘green hat’ was appropriate because there is a river, a lake and a mountain just to the north of the city,” Dalton City Manager Ty Ross explains. “If you were drawing in the abstract, it looks like a green hat on top of the town.”
The Green Hat Project aims to construct biking and walking trails that connect neighborhoods and the downtown area to the city’s cultural amenities and its numerous natural resources, like Mount Rachel. With the help of a few generous contributors, the plan is moving along.
A $500,000 grant from the federal Transportation Enhancement Program is being used to create greenway trails from Dalton’s downtown business district to its newly designated arts and cultural district. Interns from the University of Georgia School of Environment and Design are designing the trails.
Another $100,000 grant from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources will create five miles of trails at Mount Rachel. The city is also using a $21,000 community development block grant to build a new park with a multi-use trail on an abandoned railroad spur at Crown Mill.
“When you put in this type of infrastructure, development follows,” Ross says. “The project will start the creation of a more livable community.”
Another major goal of the plan is to attract a greater number of young professionals. Larkin, for one, is excited about the possibilities.
“The city is working in the right direction,” he says. “It's great to see things being done to improve the life and longevity of the city.”