W&A Engineering, a national civil engineering firm based in Athens, GA, has donated $50,000 in support services for the Northeast Georgia tri-county rail-trail project, the Firefly Trail. This donation will be shared equally between Athens-Clarke, Oglethorpe and Greene Counties and will include the advising, planning, surveying, and technical design services of W&A Engineering.
Once complete, the Firefly Trail will be a continuous 39-mile multi-use trail, running from downtown Athens to Union Point, GA. The Firefly Trail will provide a safe place, removed from streets and highways, for exercise and active non-motorized transportation. Runners, walkers, cyclists, strollers, and wheelchairs will all be welcome on the trail.
Mayor Dodd Ferrelle of Winterville, in Athens-Clarke County, says, “A small city like Winterville, working on such a tight budget, would have a hard time realizing a special project like the Firefly Trail were it not for the generosity and community-minded spirit of W&A Engineering. Jon Williams’ generous partnership combined with the donated expertise of his staff will help us create the backbone of a new economy winding through our region, from Athens to Union Point.” Local officials and members of the Firefly Trail Board of Directors envision the trail providing not only a place for exercise and alternative transportation, but also a boost to economic development in the Northeast Georgia towns situated on the trail, including: Athens, Winterville, Crawford, Stephens, Maxeys, Woodville and Union Point. Communities in the Southeast are creating a new economy around multi-use trails, such as the 22-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville, SC. The trail’s economic impact on Greenville County is estimated by Greenville County Recreation to be $7M per year, and a study led by Furman University professor Julian Reed illustrates a $6.7M impact on Greenville’s 19 businesses in closest proximity to the trail in the first three years.
“Our board sees the partnership with W&A Engineering as a potentially transformative moment for the Firefly Trail and the economic development opportunities it will bring to all of our future trail communities,” says Mark Ralston, President of Firefly Trail, Inc., a 501(c)(3) Georgia non-profit.
W&A Engineering currently serves as on-call civil engineers and consultants for economic development in more than 35 Georgia communities, and with the company’s mission of building better communities, it made sense to Williams and his team to donate services to the three counties involved with the Firefly Trail.
“Athens-Clarke, Oglethorpe and Greene Counties are our partners in economic development, so donating our time and services to the Firefly Trail seemed like a great way for us to give back to those communities while continuing to promote economic development and job growth across the state,” says Williams, President of W&A Engineering.
Several hundred other local supporters of the trail have also donated a combined $90,000 to help build the “Model Miles”– sections which will be built out first, to illustrate how the trail will benefit the three counties involved– starting with sections in Maxeys (Oglethorpe County), Union Point (Greene County), and Athens-Clarke County.
“My team at W&A has already designed and overseen the gateway plaza, through The Mark in downtown Athens to the Firefly Trail, and we look forward to helping conceive and implement other parts of the trail,” says Williams. Williams has also recently started discussions to help acquire additional land for the Firefly Trail within the three counties.
Mary Cook, Vice President and Treasurer for the Firefly Trail, says, “In the first week that the Firefly Trail has been working with Jon of W&A Engineering, it has become obvious that he has the contacts and the respect of local, state and federal individuals and agencies. He has helped move the Firefly Trail project forward before we’ve even begun formal planning. For a property owner to allow Firefly Trail’s ‘linear park’ to cross their land will require a great deal of trust. W&A Engineering’s professional services will go a long way in securing and maintaining this trust.”
# # #
Jon Williams / President and CEO of W&A Engineering
Mark Ralston / President of Firefly Trail Incorporated