Tanglefoot Trail, the 43.5 mile cycling and hiking trail that runs from downtown New Albany to Houston, Miss. has been designated a part of the National Trails System.
The U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service made the announcement today, June 4th, in advance of National Trails Day this Saturday, June 6. Tanglefoot is one of ten trails from around the United States newly designated by the National Park Service.
“By designating these exceptional trails as part of the National Trails System, we recognize the efforts of local communities to provide outdoor recreational opportunities that can be enjoyed by everyone,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “Our world-class network of national trails provides easily accessible places to get exercise and connect with nature in both urban and rural areas, while also boosting tourism and supporting economic opportunities in local communities across the country.”
Tanglefoot Trail thus becomes one the newest additions to the 16,000-mile National Trails System. Each of the new national recreation trails will receive a certificate of designation, a letter of congratulations from the Interior Secretary, and a set of trail markers.
New Albany Mayor Tim Kent took the lead in securing the 43.5 miles of trail for Mississippi. The railroad took up its tracks and abandoned its right-of-way several years ago. Under a federal program that allows abandoned railroad rights-of-way to be “banked” for conversion into recreational trails when the railroads abandon them, Kent acted. He tried to interest officials in Pontotoc and Houston in joining him, but they were not interested. Kent then asked then New Albany City Attorney Robert Carter to “bank” the entire 43.5 miles, securing it for its present use. Plans were made and grants were obtained for paving the entire 43.5-mile length of the trail. Kent drove the project relentlessly until it was completed last year.
The trailhead at the intersection of Bankhead and Railroad Streets was developed into an attractive plaza completed in time for the September 2014 Riverfest. Last month Kent witnessed the finishing touch to the Tanglefoot Trail project when a new 120-foot bridge carrying the trail over New Albany’s Main Street was installed. It replaced an old railroad bridge.
Completion of the Tanglefoot Trail, the Plaza at the trailhead and the new bridge have been a major factor in a dramatic renaissance in downtown New Albany. Cyclists have traveled to New Albany from throughout North America to ride Tanglefoot and the traffic continues to grow. New Albany’s has become one of the most active downtown areas, night and day, of any city, large and small, in Mississippi.
National recreation trail designation recognizes existing trails and trail systems that link communities to recreational opportunities on public lands and in local parks across the nation.
Tanglefoot is the second longest of the ten new additions to the National Trails System. The longest new-trail designation is a 69-mile stretch along the Ohio River in parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The shortest of the ten new trails is one three-quarters of a mile long in Sacket’s Harbour, New York.