Hall County Moves to Connect Trail Networks


The Highlands to Islands Trail Expansion Project is a collaborative effort between Hall County and the Georgia Department of Transportation. The proposed multi-use trail will ultimately connect Rock Creek Greenway, Gainesville Square, and the University of North Georgia to the pathways along Friendship Road, Lake Lanier Islands and the surrounding area. The project seeks to create a safe and enjoyable experience for the thousands who use the area for recreation, commuting, and other activities. 

Photo by DeAnna Mayfield

The Highlands to Islands Trail Expansion Project will add approximately 10.5 miles of multi-use trails, including a 5.5-mile loop around Lanier Islands. The project will also include the installation of several amenities along the trail, including benches, lights, signage, and parking. This will make the trail more accessible to cyclists, pedestrians, and those who wish to explore the natural beauty of the area. The proposal, made by the Gainesville Hall County Metropolitan Planning Organization states, “Trails are a priority for Hall County. Our first goal is to promote active lifestyles by providing access to recreational trails. Goal two is to provide connections to high demand areas including schools, universities, town centers, and neighborhoods.”

The project is estimated to cost $1.2 million, with Hall County contributing $400,000 and the Georgia Department of Transportation supplying the remaining funds. The project will create nearly 30 jobs in Hall County and help promote economic development in the area by providing easy access to both Lanier Islands and the surrounding communities.

Photo by DeAnna Mayfield

The Highlands to Islands Trail Expansion Project is expected to improve public safety, providing a safe, well-lit route for cyclists, pedestrians, and joggers. The addition of amenities, such as benches and lights, will encourage more people to use the trail. Carly Rossano,  a student at the University of North Georgia, says, “ I use the walking trails behind the campus to get home to my apartment regularly. As long as there is regular security so I feel safe I would love to use the trails to get to more places in the area too.” 171 online surveys were conducted about the vision for the project via www.Gainesville.altaprojects.net. Residents reported being excited about the prospect of a countrywide trail network that will connect to several destinations.

Margi Flood, a Professor at UNG, says “Trails get people outside, it is good for health and good for neighborhood connectivity, and might reduce car use. On the downside, concrete is impermeable so there will be runoff issues. Botanically, there have been impacts on some of the wetlands next to the trail. Hopefully, they will recover in a few years.” 

With the addition of the 10.5 miles of trails, Hall County residents and visitors will be able to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the area in a safe and convenient manner. The project is a great example of how public-private partnerships can create a better future for all.