Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Flint River Greenway Trail, Albany, Georgia

After checking the weather, and making sure that the Flint River wasn't above flood stage in Albany, Georgia, we decided that it would be a good day to explore the Flint River Greenway Trail. Not that the Flint River is prone to flooding, but the trail is in the flood plain, and is probably underwater during any flood event. In fact, the trail had been underwater a couple of weeks before our visit, and the river was still high.

The trail is twelve-feet wide and paved with concrete. The southern end of the trail was near the Vietnam War Memorial in Veterans Park, or very close to the intersection of East Oglethorpe Boulevard (US 82) and South Front Street. From here, the trail descends a short, steep slope to the river, passing underneath the Oglethorpe Bridge to head upstream (roughly north) with the Flint River on your right. Coming out from under the bridge, the trail passes below Ray Charles Plaza, at the top of the riverbank on your left you should be able to see a bronze statue of Charles at his piano. Past Ray Charles Plaza the trail runs underneath the Broad Avenue bridge and enters Riverside Park. Riverside Park has a lot of pedestrian traffic, so don't expect to be able to run or ride swiftly here. Uphill to the left is the Flint RiverQuarium, a uniquely-shaped building that also contains a blue-hole spring.

At the north end of Riverside Park the trail goes under a railroad trestle. This is the official start of the trail, or at least where the 0-mile marker post stands. There are mileage posts every half mile from here to the north end of the trail at Cleve Cox Landing. There are also street names painted on the pavement every block, showing you where 1st Avenue, 2nd Avenue, and other Albany street would intersect the trail if they actually made it that far east. Of all the east-west avenues in Albany, only Society Avenue and 3rd Avenue make it over the railroad tracks and through the wetlands to bump into the trail.

After about a half mile the trail and the Flint River start to angle apart. Early in the second mile the trail splits to pass under another railroad trestle. North of the trestle, the Oxford Construction Company is on the left side of the trail and the Oxford Environmental Park is on the right. The park seems to have formerly been the sand mine for the construction company; now it has been turned over to whatever wildlife can live there. Nature trails dotted with benches and observation decks run through the park from the greenway trail down to the Flint River.

North of Oxford Environmental Park, the Flint River Greenway Trail passes the 1-1/2 mile post and then runs under the Liberty Expressway (US 19) bridge over the Flint River. North of US 19 the trail winds around a pond with an observation deck, and then straightens out to head north to an intersection with unpaved Georgia Power Road. A short side-trip east on Georgia Power Road will take you to a narrow bridge over Muckafoone Creek, from which you can see the Lake Chehaw spillway. If water is going over the spillway you'll be able to hear it from the trail.

Past Georgia Power Road the Greenway Trail starts to wind as it passes the two-mile mark. There are also some short climbs on this stretch. Paths to the right of the trail are worth exploring for views of Muckafoone Creek, Lake Chehaw, and the ruins of an old railroad bridge. Continuing on the Greenway Trail will take you to the parking lot for Cleve Cox Landing, a boat ramp on Lake Chehaw. Go all the way to the boat ramp itself to see the last milepost on the trail, marked 2.4 miles.

Not quite three miles long, the Flint River Greenway Trail is short but pleasant. It doesn't really go anywhere, so it has little or no potential as an alternative transportation corridor. The trail is principally a recreational trail, and it gets a lot of recreational use. There were lots of cyclists and walkers on the trail during our visit, and hoofprints along the trail demonstrated that equestrians had been using the greenway as well. The trail was originally conceived to run about seven miles from Radium Springs in the south to the Parks at Chehaw in the north, but plans to complete the northern extension of the trail have been postponed due to lack of funds. The Albany - Sasser - Dawson Rail Trail was also supposed to link to the Flint River Greenway Trail, but that project has yet to move off the drawing board.

But if you're in Albany and the river don't rise, check out the Flint River Greenway Trail.

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Herb...

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