The City of Auburn will seek state funding for a future biking and walking trail system that city officials hope can also make the city an “agri-tourism destination.”

During its work session Thursday, Oct. 15, the city council approved the city’s pre-application for the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Program grant, which is administered by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The GOSP is the state’s funding mechanism for land conservation and the support of parks and trails that was expected to generate around $20 million per year when voters statewide approved a constitutional amendment in 2018, setting up a trust fund that pulls from sales tax on outdoor sporting good purchases.

Grant money awarded goes toward projects that “support state parks and trails; support local parks and trails of state and regional significance; provide stewardship of conservation land; or acquire critical areas for the provision or protection of clean water, wildlife, hunting, fishing, military installation buffering, or for natural resource-based outdoor recreation.”

The City of Winder earlier this year was awarded GOSP grant money that is funding the bulk of an estimated $1.3 million walking and biking trail connecting Fort Yargo State Park with city-owned property near the downtown area. The city is expected to award a construction bid as early as next month and the project is scheduled to take six months to complete.

Auburn is required to submit a pre-application and then a final application in the first quarter of 2021. Auburn community development director Jay Miller said the city hopes to leverage the walking trails that are planned to be part of the future master development south of Atlanta Highway that will include a new municipal complex, single-family housing and some businesses. He said the trail system could also potentially tie into the recently-announced “Rowen” research park mega-project that will be located off State Route 316 between Dacula and the Gwinnett-Barrow county line.

If approved, a 25-percent local match by the city would be required for Auburn’s project. Miller said he anticipates the cost for land acquisition and development of the trails would be less than $1 million.

OTHER BUSINESS

Other items the council discussed Thursday that it will vote on at its Nov. 5 meeting included:

•an increase in salary for Drew Blackstock, the city’s independently-contracted water quality assessor. Blackstock’s estimated hours per month would increase from 100 to 150, and his pay rate would go from $20 an hour to $22 an hour. The renewed agreement would be for one year.

•a recommendation to award Garrett Paving the contract to complete the resurfacing of Heritage Way in the amount of $103,248. The project would be funded primarily through the state’s 2020 LMIG money, along with SPLOST 2018 proceeds. The work is expected to take 45 days to complete.

•a renewal of the Hue Graphics lease of the city-owned building at 1365 4th Ave. for one year at $700 a month, up from the $675 rate the business is currently paying. Under the proposed agreement, the lease would continue to increase $25 per month each year.

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