A project to connect the city of Jackson to a local state park and a private nature preserve with a multi-use trail is expected to get underway in the new year, with its first phase completed by the end of 2019.

Jackson Mayor Kay Pippin said the city will likely begin accepting bids on the first phase of the trail’s construction in the coming weeks.

City officials, Butts County commissioners and members of the committee spearheading the trail effort met Monday at the Butts County Administration Building to discuss the project.

In March the project was awarded a $200,000 grant for its first phase. The grant is funded by the Federal Highway Administration and administered through the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Recreation Trails Program. Pippin noted the city has also received federal grants in recent years for sewer infrastructure improvement projects.

“To me, these [grants] are the perfect examples of partnerships between local, state and federal governments,” she said.

The first phase of the trail project will link a 217-acre tract of city-owned property off Brownlee Road, near Jackson Elementary School, to Indian Springs State Park through property owned by the Daughtry Foundation, which operates Dauset Trails Nature Center.

Larry Morgan, who chairs the Jackson Trail Committee, said part of the new trail will be built through an area of Daughtry property that already has existing horse trails, though its exact course hasn’t been mapped yet.

The new trail, in the first phase, will extend to Indian Springs State Park property at Lake Clark Road, connecting to existing park trails.

Committee members said at least nine miles of new trail will be built as part of phase one, but more is possible depending on the final design.

Trail advocates hope to connect the first phase of the trail with downtown Jackson during a second phase of construction, providing uninterrupted access from the city’s center to Dauset Trails Nature Center and through to Indians Springs State Park and other nearby attraction, including the Village at Indian Springs.

Officials plan to submit a grant application for the second phase by the end of next year. Phase two is planned as a roughly one-mile long connection from the trail head of phase one to a location in downtown Jackson that has not yet been formally identified, though officials initially discussed a location somewhere in the area of the Jackson-Butts County Public Library.

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Michael Davis has been the editor of the Jackson Progress-Argus since 2010. He previously worked as an editor and reporter for the Henry Daily Herald and Clayton News-Daily.