NORTHEAST MISSISSIPPI — New Albany businessman Travis Wiseman says he’s ready to see rails converted to trails.
Wiseman’s Union Appliance and Furniture in downtown New Albany sits next to what will be the start of the Rails to Trails project.
Wiseman expects a boost in traffic and business from the trail, which is expected to attract hundreds of local and out of town bike and walking enthusiasts every year.
“People may know someone in the area, even if they’re far away, they may know someone and spark up a conversation about our area,” Wiseman told WCBI-TV.
The Tanglefoot Trail will be a 44-mile stretch of former railroad, which will be made into a 10-foot wide paved path for bicyclists and pedestrians from New Albany to Houston, through Union, Pontotoc and Chickasaw counties.
Organizers expect a host of economic advantages.
For example, the 40-mile Longleaf Trace between Hattiesburg and Prentiss has led to an increase in businesses catering to exercise enthusiasts and tourists.
The $9.6 million north Mississippi project is funded through a federal grant and state money. Each city and county along the path will provide money for ongoing maintenance and upkeep.
“As far as city of New Albany is concerned, it’s very important, ’cause anywhere else in the country where they have done this they have noticed a big tourism increase and a lot of people who ride bikes are serious cyclists; they travel the country just to ride different trails,” said New Albany Mayor Tim Kent.
Work is expected to progress quickly. The old railroad near downtown New Albany is already being removed. Paving will start soon with plans to complete the 44-mile trail within a year.