Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell said a public trail is planned along the entire length of the old Durham Railroad that went from the Durham coal mining community on Lookout Mountain to coke ovens at Chickamauga, Ga.
The first leg of the trail at Durham was opened recently. It links to the new Cloudland Connector trail from Lula Lake to Cloudland Canyon State Park, crosses the Durham Road and then goes to a trailhead at a power line above Rock Creek. It then extends across property of the Lula Lake Land Trust about half a mile down to the railroad bed and along the train bed headed toward the former rail stop at Vulcan.
Commissioner Heiskell said the plan is for it to eventually connect with Chickamauga Park and someday on to Camp Jordan in East Ridge.
Walker County has long held the rights to the old rail bed.
Commissioner Heiskell said making it to Chickamauga is a long-range plan. "We're just getting started," she stated.
The trail is no longer visible in some places, and she noted that a couple built a house right in the middle of it at Wallaceville. "We won't make them move the house. We'll go around it," she said.
A major project in the trail-building process was repairing a washout not far from the Durham Road. Philip Schofield of CTI Engineers of Dalton, Ga., said a box culvert of brick and railroad tles that went under a crossing of the creek got clogged up. When Hurricane Opal came along, it washed out that entire section of the railroad bed.
Walker County workers several months ago unclogged the box culvert and that sent some mud down the creek. Some trail opponents downstream called in regulators.
Commissioner Heiskell said an agreement has been reached with Georgia's Environmental Protection Division that "acknowledges EPD's concerns over work at the site, but also specifies that Walker County admits no violations or wrongdoing."
Using federal funds, the railroad bed at the washout was rebuilt. A 96" corrugated metal pipe was installed near the top of the rebuilt rail bed as a backup in case the box culvert once again becomes clogged.
Mr. Schofield said the repair work will once again allow trout to travel along that section of the creek. The creek banks that are shaded by mountain laurel and rhododendron help allow trout and other fish to survive the year round.
Commissioner Heiskell said, also using federal funds, Rock Creek was cleared of debris the length of the mountain and down to Flintstone, Ga.
Bobby Davenport of the Lula Lake Land Trust said, "This portion of the completed trail will provide much-needed access connecting public lands. We appreciate Commissioner Heiskell's record of conservation of public lands."
Construction of the trail is being paid for by a Recreational Trail Program grant using federal money administered by the state of Georgia.
Commissioner Heiskell, due to back problems, said she is not a hiker and it was her first visit to the Durham trailhead and trail.