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Today is October 4, 2022

Paths to Fitness

Urban recreational trails boost quality of life while attracting visitors—and new residents

By Debbie Stringer

Paths to Fitness

The Yazoo River Trail, in downtown Greenwood, leads users around a stand of willow and through a bottomland forest on city-owned property bordering the Yazoo River.

    Whether walking, running, biking or skating, recreational trail use benefits the mind and spirit as well as the body by introducing nature into the workout.
    “I have had people tell me that they moved here because of the trail system,” said Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee, whose city just opened a trailhead pavilion for its multi-use, nonmotorized trail system.
    Ridgeland, Greenwood, Tunica and West Point are among the Mississippi cities who have (or are building) trails for non-motorized use, and in some cases horseback riding.
    In northeast Mississippi, municipal and county governments formed a recreational district to develop a Rails-to-Trails recreational project spanning three counties.
   Here are some highlights from these trail projects:

• As Greenwood’s new Yazoo River Trail nears completion, the Delta Garden Club is partnering with the city and other volunteers to establish a butterfly garden of native plants and a monarch butterfly “waystation” at the trail site, near downtown Greenwood. A waystation is a place that provides natural habitat for monarch migration and reproduction.
    “After seeing the work the City of Greenwood was putting into the Yazoo River Trail, we knew we wanted to be a part of it. Because our state plays such a critical role in the monarch butterflies’ migration, we felt that would be the perfect project for us to work on and develop,” said Britt Hammons-Carter, club president.
    Work is expected to begin on the butterfly garden this month. The Delta Garden Club was awarded a Garden Clubs of Mississippi Nature Trail Grant to fund the project.
    The Yazoo River Trail lies on city-owned property comprising 45 acres of meadows and native hardwoods, including a thick stand of willow that serves as a food source for both butterflies and caterpillars. A limestone path leads visitors past the willows and into the butterfly garden site; another path branches off for a winding journey through the bottomland forest bordering the river.
   Rich in wildlife, the area is now known as the Greenwood Yazoo River Natural Area and has been accepted into the Mississippi Natural Heritage Program, based on the plant and animal species it supports.
    For more information, visit www.greenwoodms.com or call Greenwood City Hall at 662-453-2246.

• Ridgeland’s 14.6-mile multi-use, nonmotorized trail system connects the Natchez Trace Parkway, the Mississippi Craft Center, Ross Barnett Reservoir and a shopping area.
    Although located in a busy urban center, much of Ridgeland’s trail system winds through wooded areas. One trail follows a local section of the Natchez Trace Parkway, ending at a scenic overlook on the reservoir.
    The city recently opened a new 1,500-square-foot trailhead pavilion that includes two sheltered picnic tables, two restrooms, a bike rack, a bicycle service stand and a parking lot made of recycled asphalt. The service stand, donated by Jackson Metro Cyclists, includes tools necessary for changing a flat and other basic repairs. The pavilion is located near the intersection of Rice Road and Lake Harbor Drive.
    Ridgeland, a recognized Bicycle Friendly Community, also has specially designated mountain bike trails, and bike rentals are available.
    A multi-use trail map is available at www.visitridgeland.com. For information, call 800-468-6078 or 601-605-5252.

• After a year of construction, Tunica held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in March for its two new bike trails.
    “We are getting calls from everywhere [from people] wanting more information,” said Lynn Ryals, executive director of Tunica Main Street, which funded the project.
    The longer of the two trails is a 27-mile round-trip path running along Old Highway 61 from Rivergate Park in Tunica to DeSoto County, where it connects with a DeSoto trail.
    The other trail is a 13-mile loop connecting Rivergate Park and Mhoon Landing Park, located on the Mississippi River in Tunica County. Cyclists can use a rest stop at the seven-mile point.
    “The trails share the road and they are in flat Delta land,” Ryals said. “You will go through some wooded areas and some open, sunny spots. You can see a variety of wildlife from ducks in the streams to rabbits along the road.”
    To download or request a bike trail map, go to www.tunicamainstreet.com or call 662-363-6611.

• Spring is an especially beautiful time of year along the Kitty Bryan Dill Memorial Parkway, which links five manicured urban parks with a paved, wooded path.
    A Rails-to-Trails Parkway begun in 1991, the 5-foot-wide concrete path extends for 3.75 miles.
    “West Point was extremely fortunate to be able to develop a portion of the C&G Railroad that ran through the heart of downtown into our parkway when that portion of the line was re-routed. It has been and continues to be a beautiful addition to downtown West Point,” said Cynthia Wilson, director of Community Development and West Point Main Street at West Point/Clay County Community Growth Alliance.
    Lighted at night by old-fashioned lamp posts, walkways lead users to gazebos, arbors, water fountains and a windmill. The parkway’s greenspace is lush, neatly tended and shaded by large native hardwoods. Benches offer a place to rest, visit, take pictures or simply enjoy the view. In the Sally Kate Winters Park, benches surround an old-fashioned bandstand.
    The parkway is also the site of special events, including the city’s annual Prairie Arts Festival.
    Managed by the West Point/Clay County Community Growth Alliance, the parkway was designated in 2005 by the U.S. Department of the Interior as a National Recreational Trail.
    For information, call the Alliance at 662-494-5121 or visit www.westpointms.org.

• The 44-mile Tanglefoot Trail in north Mississippi is tentatively scheduled to open in July after some seven years of development. The Rails-to-Trails project is being built on the former Mississippi-Tennessee Railroad corridor running through Chickasaw, Pontotoc and Union counties, from New Albany to Houston.
    The multi-use recreational trail consists of a 10-foot-wide asphalt path with gateway buildings (welcome centers) in New Albany, Pontotoc and Houston, and “whistle stops” in Ingomar, Ecru, Algoma and New Houlka. The whistle stops will provide user parking, restrooms, water fountains, picnic tables and bike racks.
    The GM&O Rails-to-Trails Recreational District was formed in 2006 to create the trail.
    The trail was named after the narrow-gauge engine used during construction of the railroad in 1872.
    Tanglefoot Trail is closed to the public until its completion this summer. Three Rivers Planning and Development District posts trail updates at its website, www.trpdd.com/news.

    For more information on hiking and biking trails throughout Mississippi, go to www.visitmississippi.org or call 866-SEE MISS (733-6477). Visit www.mdwfp.com for information on hiking trails in state parks.

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