Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, Dec. 4 newspaper on Page A3.
Residents, non-residents and many stakeholders have continued to let Athens City Council know that they are in favor of millions of tax dollars going to the Baileys Trail Project.
The matter comes up for a full vote in two weeks on Dec. 16.
Council members have noted again and again dozens of emails they have received in support of the project, and council member Sam Crowl noted he had received upwards of 100 in favor of the city committing financially to the project.
If completed, supporters of the project have said the 88-miles of mountain bike trail will attract upwards of 181,000 visitors to Athens County annually, resulting in a projected $20 million in increased spending.
The council was also provided an update on the project from Mayor Steve Patterson. He received a letter from Rural Action noting the group intends to complete 31 miles of the trail through the newly received Appalachian Regional Commission POWER grant, amounting to $1.24 in additional funding.
One individual hailed from North Carolina and said he’d been in the area since October in anticipation of the project’s completion. He addressed fears that the community is not set up for the anticipated tourism, saying “you’re ready for it.”
Jim Shulz, an Athens County resident who travels often for work, said he brings his bike while traveling and settled in Athens due to its bike friendly populace and infrastructure.
“Cycling is in the blood of this town,” he told council.
The $1.8 million investment has also been requested of the Athens County Commissioners, who have not voted on the matter. Commissioner Chris Chmiel said the body has been “sort of waiting for the city to do their part,” and that he anticipates a lengthy conversation about the funding from the county when it comes before the body.
A tour of the trail system is planned for three members of council, as well as Council President Chris Knisely, on Dec. 4 from 1-3 p.m.