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A local non-profit organization is making good on its pledge to invest the proceeds of a recent fund raiser into new signage in the community. Locals may have already seen some of the signs, which have been erected.
According to Margaret Tyson, chair of Ochlockonee River Water Trail, Inc. (O.R.W.T.), the non-profit recently designated the approved Cairo 5K route as a walking trail. The trail is one of the projects that O.R.W.T. hopes to mark around Grady County in the coming months.
The new walking trail follows a typical 3.1-mile route of the 5K run route approved by the Cairo City Council and routinely utilized for fundraising events. Signs have been erected along the route and Tyson says O.R.W.T. plans to designate another popular route for local walkers and runners that loops around the city from Broad Street to U.S. 84 to Fifth Street and back around to Broad. Tyson hopes this project can be completed in the next two to three months.
Next up will be designating a paddle trail around Tired Creek Lake which the group plans to complete by late summer. Lastly, OR.W.T. has plans to erect mile markers along the Ochlockonee River as a resource for boaters as well as a guide for first responders in the event of an emergency involving a boater or paddler on the river. This last of the four projects will likely be tackled in the fall and will be completed in coordination with the Grady County Volunteer Fire Department and the Grady County Emergency Management Agency.
The completed 5K path officially begins and ends at Holder Park, according to O.R.W.T. vice chair and secretary Vicky Redden. Approximately 12 markers were placed along the route so that people can begin walking anywhere along the path.
Those who wish to walk the trail can download a smartphone application called “Avenza Maps” to get a digital copy of the walking trail. This interactive PDF format tracks walkers’ progress on their phone screen, much like a global-positioning system (G.P.S.) device. Maps are also available at ORWT.org and syrupcity.net.
Fundraising for the project began in January of 2020, when O.R.W.T. partnered with the Golden Triangle Resource and Development Council of Southwest Georgia to host an “escape room” fundraiser, which generated $4,743 for the cause. Tyson said that Golden Triangle donated their share of the event’s proceeds to O.R.W.T. so that 100 percent of the funds went toward marking the walking trails around Grady County. Tyson appeared before the Cairo City Council in October 2019 to lay the groundwork for the trail designation projects and she received unanimous approval from city leaders.
Tyson and Redden said their organization thanks Robert Willis, City of Cairo utility worker, for helping them to install the signs; G.I.S. director Heidi Penny and G.I.S. technician Jeff Hamilton of the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission for mapping out the trail and creating the map; and executive director Rhonda Gordon, implementation manager Julie Shutters and program specialist James Andrews of the Golden Triangle Resource Conservation & Development Council of Southwest Georgia for their partnership and generosity.
According to Tyson, Ochlockonee River Water Trail, Inc. is a registered non-profit organization that was founded in 2017. It has since been involved in the community by hosting paddle trips down the Ochlockonee River, partnering with “Keep Grady County Beautiful” and Golden Triangle RC&D for clean-ups, and building a kiosk at Hadley Ferry Landing with Cairo High School F.F.A.