HOULKA – The Tanglefoot Trail has made it through Houlka and the much awaited whistle-stop in that community is going up.
Work on the walking trail that stretches from Houston to New Albany has been underway for almost a year and the final details of the project are falling into place.
“The whistle-stop is about half-way complete and they’ve got one of the two caution lights up on the highway,” said Houlka Mayor Jimmy Kelly. “They are moving right along.”
The 44.5-mile Tanglefoot Trail is being built on the old GM&O railbed and has been cleared and topped with a smooth black ribbon on asphalt as part of the first phase of the project.
Phase II will now see construction of whistle stops at Ingomar, Ecru, Algoma and Houlka. Whistle stops will include restroom facilities, water fountains, bike racks, benches and picnic tables.
Phase III will be the construction of larger gateways in Houston, Pontotoc and New Albany.
Clearing and construction on Tanglefoot Trail began last summer.
“There is a lot of interest in this and I think it will be a very good thing for Houlka,” said Kelly. “We are right on the trail and it will be so easy for people to stop and shop in our stores.”
He believes those who use the trail will spend the night at Davis Lake and maybe enjoy a meal in a community restaurants.
“Everything they are doing looks real nice and I do think it will bring people to Houlka,” Kelly added. We’re getting more excited the closer it gets to opening.”
And that is the only down-side of the project at this point.
Since the trail is not officially opened, it is considered a construction site with construction site dangers. People need to stay off it.
Tentative plans call for the trail to open this fall.
The first phase of the project also saw the repair of about 30 bridges crossing creeks along the corridor. The trail sports a 10-foot-wide asphalt surface with maintained shoulders the length of the project.
Tanglefoot Trail has an estimated economic impact of as much as $4.8 million for Northeast Mississippi. The trail is expected to see up to 100,000 users each year.
Houston’s gateway will be built near the site of the old railroad depot, south of where the railroad crosses U.S. Highway 8 in Houston.
The project is partially funded by a $9.6 million federal Transportation Enhancement grant administered by the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Other funding includes $350,000 in state money and a $100,000 trails grant from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks.
Engineering Solutions of Pontotoc is the project engineer and Glasgow Construction of Guin, Ala., was awarded the construction contract.
Three Rivers Planning and Development District serves as the administrative and fiscal agent for the GM&O District.
“The Rails to Trails project keeps the railway corridor intact in case of future needs for rail transport, utility or other use,” said Randy Kelley, executive director of Three Rivers Planning and Development District. “By preserving that corridor, the local governments of our area have done a far-reaching thing to ensure future economic development opportunities.”
Participating entities are Chickasaw, Pontotoc and Union counties and the towns of Algoma, Ecru, Houston, New Albany, New Houlka and Pontotoc. Each entity has an appointed representative on the trail board.