By Errol Castens
PONTOTOC – State and local officials will join cyclists, runners and walkers for the Tanglefoot Trail’s official opening on the last full day of summer, but the route may be usable even sooner.
Board members of the GM&O Rails-to-Trails Recreational District had hoped to open the 44.56-mile cycling and pedestrian path by Aug. 17, but construction delays have pushed back the ceremonial opening pending final inspections by Mississippi Department of Transportation engineers.
“The team has picked Sept. 21,” said Randy Kelley, executive director of Three Rivers Planning and Development District. “If it’s finished earlier, we’ll publish in the paper announcing it’s open, but we’ll have the grand opening on the 21st.”
Celebrations will be held at 8:30 a.m. in Houston, 9:30 a.m. in New Albany and culminate with a ceremonial driving of a silver spike in Pontotoc, joining the two halves of railroad-turned-recreational trail.
Mike Falkner of Engineering Solutions Inc. said the last punch-list items might be completed early in September. The trail currently has mileage markers, but a recent worker-involved accident prompted a decision to add road-identifying signage at each crossing to facilitate emergency service response.
At Friday’s meeting, directors approved issuing $5 annual permits for elderly or disabled individuals to use electric golf carts on the trail. They also approved policies governing special-event use of the trail, including fees and insurance requirements.
“The best example is an application I’ve already received,” said Trail Manager Don Locke. “They want to have part of the Bodock Festival bicycle ride on the trail.”
Officials emphasize that due to continuing construction activity, the Tanglefoot Trail remains off limits to the public until official notice of opening. A complete list of usage rules will be published in area papers.