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Trails plan gets going in Vidalia

VIDALIA — The next stage of a long-term plan to expand the Vidalia riverfront’s walkway into miles of bike trails received a big boost last month.

The city received a $92,571 grant from the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism last month to extend the Vidalia riverfront walkway to the Bunge Grain elevator.

Nearly $35,000 in in-kind contributions, from various city departments, will match the grant, grants coordinator Teresa Dennis said.

In-kind contributions will include wireless access, from the information technology department and lighting, from the utility department, Dennis said.

Before construction or bidding on the project can begin, the city must obtain approval letters from the Louisiana Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and the state’s historic preservation office.

Dennis estimated construction on the expansion would begin in January.

The walkway’s expansion is a part of a larger project to make Vidalia more pedestrian and bike friendly.

“The goal is to go from the Vidalia Riverfront area to the municipal complex without ever having to get in a car,” Dennis said.

The city’s 2011 master plan shows a bike and pedestrian trail starting on the Natchez-Vidalia bridge, following U.S. 84 to the city’s municipal complex and looping around the city on Vidalia Levee Road. The bike paths also loop through the city on various streets.

But the project may not be entirely complete for several years, Dennis said.

“The best way to get the trails master plan finished is by completing things in stages,” she said.

With money already set aside for the Vidalia Riverfront expansion, Dennis said she is beginning to look at future phases.

She recently applied for a $154,000 grant to construct a portion of the path that stretches from the municipal complex to the intersection of Murray Drive and U.S. 84.

The trail is planned to run begin behind the municipal complex, run down Advocate Row and in front of the courthouse.

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