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Tucker park to be improved with amenities for bicyclists

  • Updated
Dr. Mike Tucker Park

Dedicated by the Anniston City Council in 1998 in memory of a highly regarded young doctor in Anniston, Dr. Mike Tucker Park marks the southern terminus of the Chief Ladiga bicycling trail. Tucker died in a cycling accident in the mid-1980s. The trail is shown on the right side of the picture, extending toward Weaver and beyond. Photo by Trent Penny / The Anniston Star

Anniston city leaders agreed to add camping sites to a local park Monday as part of a larger plan to expand use of the Chief Ladiga Trail.

The Anniston City Council approved a $133,825 contract with J.F. Morgan General Contractors for the project during its Monday meeting. City officials said the permanent camping sites at Dr. Mike Tucker Park, the southern terminus of the trail, will encourage more cyclists to visit Anniston and use the trail. The city plans to extend the trail into downtown from the park in the coming years.

The city will pay for the project with money the state disburses to municipalities each year from oil royalties.

Steven Folks, director of the parks and recreation department, said a construction date has not yet been set but once it begins, it is scheduled to take 60 days to complete. The project will include paving work, installing power hookups for RVs, adding picnic tables and other amenities.

“It’ll be open to anyone, but it’ll be a good component for the trail,” Folks said. “Riders can bring campers in, spend the night or the weekend.”

At present, the 33-mile Chief Ladiga Trail, created from abandoned rail lines, ends at the park, just inside the Anniston city limits. The city’s plan is to extend the trail from the park south, then east to Alabama 21 at Baltzell Gate Road — bringing the trail further into Anniston.

Last year, the city received more than $200,000 in state grants for engineering work on the current planned Ladiga extension and the rest of the 7.2 miles needed to bring the trail into downtown. The engineering work includes designs on the trail spur at Baltzell Gate.

City Manager Brian Johnson said construction of the spur is set to begin this summer.

“The spur is under design right now,” Johnson said.

The trail extension to the spur, however, will not begin until the city acquires land for the project from surrounding property owners, Johnson said.

“We’re about to start going to property owners, asking for donations of land,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of individual parcels that are mostly residential ... if we have to purchase every property all the way down, that’s going to make the project cost prohibitive.”

Also during the meeting, the council approved an ordinance that requires motorists to maintain a distance of at least 3 feet when overtaking and passing people on bicycles. The ordinance mirrors a bill pre-filed in the Alabama Legislature that would make it a misdemeanor to violate the 3-foot buffer.

“We’ve been working on this to make the city more bike friendly,” Mayor Vaughn Stewart said of the ordinance. “It’s all about being proactive ... we don’t want to wait until an accident happens.”

The ordinance will be part of a larger safety strategy as the city begins implementing its bicycle-and-pedestrian plan for downtown this spring. The city plans to spend around $200,000 in state grant money to add about 4 miles of recreational bicycle lanes downtown.

The city has developed an installation manual for the plan — which covers any projects for bike lanes, shared roads around subdivisions and business districts — and has criteria that outlines signs, distance and other safety issues.

The city will also adhere to a 2012 council resolution that requires bicycle safety be considered as new streets and sidewalks are constructed.

During the meeting, the council also approved a resolution that declares the Vann Thomas Motel on Alabama 21 a public nuisance and states its owner will pay the city $10,000 to help in its demolition. The state Fire Marshal’s Office last month forced the closure of the motel, which housed multiple registered sex offenders.

Once demolition is complete, the city will have a nice green space, Stewart said.

In other business the City Council:

• Agreed to apply for a $7,500 grant from the Alabama Historical Commission to develop design guidelines for the renovation of local historic buildings.

• Approved the removal of the city of Piedmont as an appointing authority for the Calhoun-Cleburne Mental Health Board.

• Approved the changing of the Calhoun-Cleburne Mental Health Board’s name to Highland Health Systems.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.