“Ernie’s Trail is a nature trail that we have built,” Spalding County Parks & Recreation Director Louis Greene said. “It is a real unique nature trail in that we went to seven or eight nature trails around and copied all the good stuff they’ve done and brought it back here.”
He said the trail has signs explaining how the land was used before, a food plot, a butterfly garden and classrooms where students can study water flow and take leaf samples. Greene said science classes, Sunday school classes, the Boy Scouts and others can all use the classrooms.
Greene then explained the history of the trail. He said the land was owned by Ernie Atkinson, his son-in-law Hal Fowler and his daughter Sue Fowler. They bought the land in the 1960s to have a place for retirement and were eventually approached by people who wanted to build subdivisions there.
“They never wanted it to be a subdivision,” Greene said. “They wanted someone to buy it with grander plans than that.”
To make it easier for the county to acquire the property, Atkinson agreed to an “owner finance” arrangement where the county would make seven yearly payments of $96,000 rather than a one-time payment of nearly $590,000.
“He did us a real service by owner-financing it,” Greene said.
He said Atkinson had been offered much more for the land but turned it down.
Greene then said that the county’s development costs were limited to the cost of labor because the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia paid for the right of way to establish a transformer station on the property, in an out-of-the-way place where few could see it. The Spalding County Board of Commissioners permitted Greene to use the money gained to build the trail.
He said people and institutions that helped build the trail will be honored at the ribbon-cutting. He listed Wade Hutcheson from the Spalding County Extension Service, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Griffin-Spalding County School System Science Enrichment Center, the Georgia Forestry Commission and Forrest Hill from Two Rivers RC&D, among others.
“These people helped us,” Greene said.
The event will take place at 6 p.m. Those interested in more information can contact Spalding County Parks & Recreation at 770-467-4750.