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Trails project moves ahead in east Alabama

May 13, 2019

OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — The idea for the Creekline Trails started with a dog.

Rocky and Shealy Langley, who live in Opelika’s Pepperell Mill Village, often walk to the Pepperell Branch, where their dog loves playing in the water.

“I grew up here in Opelika and did not have an awareness of our creek system growing up. I didn’t even know I was driving over them. But we started to seek them out as places for our dog to play,” Shealy said.

“The more we saw, the more we realized, ‘Man, these are beautiful, and people need to see these. They need to enjoy them. How can we make that possible? How can we get access to them?’” she said. “And that’s kind of how the idea was born.”

The Creekline is a proposed series of multiuse paths along Opelika’s streams and roadways. They could be used by mountain bikers and other cyclists, runners and walkers, and would feature ADA access so that the entire community could take advantage of the railroad town’s creeks and streams.

During the recent Opelika Giving Day, in which community members could contribute financially toward a project of their choice, the Creekline exceeded its $15,000 fundraiser goal by more than $600.

“The money that we got from Opelika Giving Day — which was astounding, we were so floored by the amount of participation — a small portion of that is going to be used for things that can help us continue to present this project, whether it be to citizens or to funders,” Rocky said.

The couple has been sharing their idea with civic groups and stakeholders in the community for the past several months, starting with the nonprofit Envision Opelika Foundation, where Shealey is a board member.

Envision Opelika agreed to take the project under its wing and is holding the funds the Creekline received on Opelika Giving Day.

In fall 2018, the Langleys presented their proposal for the Creekline Trails to the Opelika City Council, and they have been working closely with city planning director Matt Mosley and city engineer Scott Parker as the idea gains traction, Rocky said.

“On that night we presented to city council, the mayor pulled us aside and told us, ‘I love the idea, and I think there could be some potential there, but I really need to see that the community supports it, that the community wants it,’” he recalled.

On Opelika Giving Day, the community spoke by supporting the project financially.

While a small portion of that will go into renderings and other presentation materials, most of it will be seed money for future needs, including land surveys and development costs, according to Rocky.

“We also started meeting with some of our major property owners to start conversations and see, were they agreeable to a trail coming through their property?” Shealy said. “And we’ve had success with that. That’s been exciting.”

Although there is not yet a specific timeline for when implementation of the trails will begin, the Langleys have identified what they hope to be the location of the first phase: a 2.7-mile path along the Pepperell Branch, starting at the Cunningham Drive area and going up to Waverly Parkway.

The couple believes that the Creekline Trails will enhance quality of life for Opelika residents in various ways.

“There’s a lot of data to show that any kind of trail system like this has huge benefits for the city, from the standpoint of property values to bringing in business,” Rocky said. “When people think about where they’re going to put their next location, there are obvious things that they look at.

“Our administration’s done a really good job, whether it be tax incentives or whatever, just (to give companies) the ability to relocate here. But then they also want a good quality of life for their workers. They want a workforce that wants to be where they’re at.”

Other benefits to creating the trail system would be the ability to care for the streams and the transportation angle of the project that would allow cyclists to take advantage of riding throughout the city.

“Right now, Opelika, even though we’re growing, is not a huge place. It’s not incredibly dangerous to bike around, to walk and run,” Rocky said. “But as we continue to grow, we’ll probably get presented with those challenges.

“So this is a future planning thing. It’s looking ahead, to make sure that we’re providing our future citizens a healthy way of life and a good way of life here.”

The Langleys are still gathering feedback on the proposed project and welcome community members to keep up with project developments by following the Creekline Trails of Opelika on Facebook.

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Information from: Opelika-Auburn News, http://www.oanow.com/