The cycling trail, which ends near the city’s northern limits at Michael Tucker Park, runs 33 miles through Alabama from the park to the Georgia state line. There it connects to Georgia’s 62-mile Silver Comet Trail. If Anniston is able to complete its leg to the city’s Multi-Modal Transportation Center on Fourth Street, the trail will extend for a total of 102 miles and connect to Amtrak service.
The Anniston leg of the trail has long been on the wish list of city officials as a means to draw visitors to Anniston’s downtown core. In 2007, the city was awarded a grant to buy old railroad property through the Rails-to-Trails program, but a deal never came together. So, the money, which would have been received as a reimbursement, never made it to the city.
In the meantime, Norfolk Southern abandoned the property and now it has been divided among adjacent property owners. This latest grant, said City Manager Don Hoyt, will be used to do title searches to identify property owners so the city can move forward on negotiations to purchase the property.
“We’ll have to gather the data on property ownership on property adjacent to the right of way all the way down, to try to find out who owns those pieces of property and whether or not they can be acquired,” he said.
Depending on the complexity of the ownership of particular pieces of property, the city could hire attorneys and companies to do the title searches, Hoyt said.
The city hopes to buy property along a seven-mile stretch from Michael Tucker Park near Weaver to the multi-modal center; title searches are an important first step down that path, Hoyt said.
“If we don’t do it, we don’t get it,” he said.
City Planner Toby Bennington said the money will help identify the owners, so the city can start negotiations.
Bennington doesn’t know how any of them will respond in negotiations.
“We won’t know that until we start talking to them,” he said.
The city hasn’t yet allocated any money to purchasing the properties. Whether grants are available to help fund that part of the project is also unclear.
“Don’t have any clue about that either,” he said.
The city will have to provide a $10,000 match to receive the grant.
The city will also apply for a $100,000 grant to create a campground at Michael Tucker Park. That grant is not dependent on completing the trail through Anniston.
Star staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545.