By Errol Castens
PONTOTOC – The Tanglefoot Trail will open to bicyclists, skaters, hikers and runners early Saturday morning.
After getting a preliminary letter of release from the Mississippi Department of Transportation last week, directors of the GM&O Rails-to-Trails Recreational District voted Monday to approve the opening.
Because hours of lawful use will be 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, visitors may access the trail after 6:43 a.m. Saturday. Celebratory ribbon cuttings are being planned for an undetermined date in October.
“We’re excited to officially open this trail for the public’s enjoyment and look forward to the continued development and additional enhancements,” said Chairman Betsey Hamilton. “We are grateful to all entities that made this possible.”
The opening will culminate an effort that began in 2003, when the Mississippi Tennessee Railroad declared its intentions to abandon the railway from New Albany to Houston, and area officials began talking with representatives of South Mississippi’s Longleaf Trace rails-to-trails project.
The Federal Railbanking Act allows local governments to take over such rights-of-way and operate them as recreational entities to keep the linear property intact in case it is ever needed again as a railroad or for other public utilities.
One short section of the 44.53-mile Tanglefoot Trail in New Albany will remain off limits to recreational use for the foreseeable future. Barricades mark a 0.14-mile stretch that is closed until construction is finished on the U.S. Highway 78 bridge over the trail, Carter Avenue and Central Avenue.
A Tanglefoot Trail website is expected to launch Friday. Meanwhile, for more information, call Three Rivers at (662) 489-2415.