KINGSLAND — The Coastal Georgia Greenway is about to add more than six miles of trail in Camden County.
A 10-foot paved multi- purpose trail is being constructed on the westbound side of Laurel Island Parkway as part of the first phase of a road widening project to establish a hurricane evacuation route from St. Marys to Folkston.
The new trail will stretch 5.8 miles from Kings Bay Road to Interstate 95, crossing the interstate and extending to Old Still Road. A five-foot sidewalk is also being built on the eastbound side of the road as part of the project.
That will give Camden County portions of the greenway in White Oak, Woodbine, Kingsland and St. Marys.
And a water taxi service from downtown St. Marys to Fernandina Beach, Fla., is also being reestablished by early summer, which will enable cyclists and hikers to continue their journeys into the Sunshine State.
The Coastal Georgia Greenway will be part of the East Coast Greenway, which will stretch from Maine to Key West, Fla. when it’s completed.
Terry Landreth, owner of Camden Bicycle Center in St. Marys, said what could often be a nerve-wracking ride on the two-lane highway with a very narrow bike lane will be much more relaxing once the work is completed. More than 50 percent of the path has already been built.
It took lots of planning and persistence to convince DOT officials to include the trail in the road widening project originally designed to create a needed hurricane evacuation route out of Camden County.
The effort began in 2005 when a bicycle and pedestrian plan was created and approved by elected officials in the county.
Every time Georgia Department of Transportation officials met to discuss the road widening project, Landreth said a group of Camden County residents would attend to ensure the road widening project would include a multi-use path.
“That plan had some teeth to it and we wouldn’t let it go,” he said.
Once DOT officials agreed to include the path, the next concern was budget cuts that could eliminate the path.
“It was exciting it didn’t get engineered out,” he said.
Landreth, who is also the Camden County representative on the Coastal Georgia Greenway board, said the water taxi service will attract cyclists from both sides of the St. Marys River.
“It’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s one of the unique things about this county.”
Landreth said other plans in the works include a trail on Winding Road, which would enable cyclists to safely ride to Crooked River State Park, Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay and downtown St. Marys.
While the new section is part of the national trail, Landreth said he envisions more than cycle enthusiasts using it. He expects to see people using the trail to walk their dogs, jog or go for a leisurely bike ride with no fear of traffic. Others will walk or ride their bikes to Camden County High School or the nearby county recreation center.
“I’d be happy to see a traffic jam on that path,” Landreth said.
Landreth said he recently received disappointing news about funding for the Tabby Trail portion of the greenway, stretching from Crooked River State Park to Colerain Road.
An estimated $950,000 from the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Program was approved, but the program, funded through sales tax revenue from outdoor recreation such as fishing and hunting, ran out of money. Landreth said the trail was No. 9 on the list and the outdoor program only raised enough money to fund the first eight projects.
“It’s so competitive,” he said. “We have to go back to work.”
The other disappointment is the lack of progress on the trail in other Coastal Georgia counties. Landreth said Camden leads other counties in completed trails.