Two new arches welcoming travelers on the Chief Ladiga bicycle trail into Weaver went up this week — the third and fourth such welcoming signs the Weaver mayor has overseen construction of since taking office last year.
“Business 101 is you need name recognition,” Willis said Friday from Weaver City Hall. “You can travel on Ladiga for 15 miles and never know where you are. You want them to know your name.”
It’s a sales pitch that won over Jacksonville Mayor Johnny Smith and Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart, so their cities, plus Weaver, all kicked in $2,000 each for the $6,000 project. The flipsides of the Weaver arches welcome riders to the two Calhoun County cities at Weaver’s borders.
Weaver City Councilwoman Ellen Cole said she’s been working on getting the signs for more than a year after being inspired by similar signs on the trail at the Georgia state line.
“We’ve actually had people complain to us they don’t know where they are on the trail,” Cole said. “This way they know, welcome to Weaver, welcome to Anniston, welcome to Jacksonville. It gets all three communities involved.”
Toby Bennington, Anniston’s city planner, said the signs represent a unified aesthetic for Calhoun County that encourages riders to look more closely at the community they’re traveling through.
“If you’re in Weaver traveling south, we want that consistent signage that says ‘Welcome to Anniston,’” Bennington said. “It’ll be the gateway to the city.”
Bike riders can’t see much of Anniston from the Ladiga Trail. At least not currently.
Just after passing under the new arches, the trail extends less than a half-mile into the Model City before coming to an end at Mike Tucker Park. Stewart said while the city plans to extend the trail through west Anniston and to the Coldwater Mountain bicycle trails, the city doesn’t own the property and still needs to discuss acquiring it from the owners.
“I think before the end of the year we can start talking to property owners,” Stewart said. “That’s the next step.”
Robert Smith, the arches’ project manager, said he’s working with Anniston to create a sign at the trail’s end to tell riders about the project extension.
“You get to Anniston and go 400 feet, and go, ‘where is Anniston?’” Smith said. “So we want people to know we’re working on it.”
Weaver’s neighbor to the north, Jacksonville, won’t have that problem. The trail extends all the way through town and crosses the campus of Jacksonville State University. In terms of signage, Johnny Smith said, the city’s already got its portion of the trail well marked, but the new overhead signs will be an aesthetic improvement.
“That’s the biggest thing,” Smith said. “I think it’ll add a nice touch to the trail.”
Smith said while he hasn’t had talks yet with city officials, he’d like to create a similar sign at the northern end of Jacksonville to welcome riders into Piedmont — a plan that has backing from Willis.
“Eventually we’d like to see all the communities have similar arches all the way through the trail,” Willis said. “Let people know exactly where they are.”
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.