Rosemary Chesney, Campus Carrier arts and living editor
Across Rome, there are 16 miles of multiuse trails that have been advancing over the past few years. City Engineering is currently building a ramp that will connect the Mount Berry trail with the rest of the Rome trail system called ECO Greenway. With one more connecting piece, Berry students, faculty and staff could access the Mount Berry trail and entire Rome trail system through Berry school property.
In September 2020, the 1.8-mile Mount Berry Trail officially opened running behind the U.S. post office to Big Dry Creek. While this trail does not connect to Berry’s main campus, President Steve Briggs previously expressed plans in a Rome News-Tribune Article concerning the Mount Berry Trail to construct a connector through the pastures of the main campus to the trail. This path would essentially connect the main campus to the Rome Trail system. Trails and Transportation Planner Julie Smith works with the City of Rome and Floyd County to advocate and plan for all trails.
“I think it would be amazing to have a Berry connector to the trail,” Smith said. “Right now, [Berry] is currently landlocked and can’t travel downtown safely by foot or bike. Having a connector would certainly open doors for Berry students, faculty and staff.”
Before becoming the Trails and Transportation Planner, Smith was the president and executive director of Tred (Trails for Recreation and Economic Development) a nonprofit trails advocacy group founded in 2012. Smith said that TRED worked with the city of Rome to construct the original Mount Berry Trail completed in September 2020 and is involved in the construction of the ramp that will connect the Mount Berry Trail to the Ridge Ferry Trail, and rest of the Rome trail system. This ramp should be completed by the summer, according to Smith.
“Tred’s role is to advocate and work with the city to expand and enhance the trails,” Smith said. “We just want them to be safe and everyone have a great experience.
In order for Berry’s campus to be connected to the Rome trail system as well, there would need to be a bikeable trail through the pastures behind the Berry police station with a break in the fence at the end of the field that separated the field from the Mount Berry Trail. Then, students, faculty and staff would be able to bike from the Berry police station to anywhere in the Rome trail system. According to senior Noah Guthrie, president of the Eco club, the Berry connector could potentially be completed in phases, rather than all at once.
“Connecting Berry’s campus to the larger trail system would benefit both the Rome and student population health,” Guthrie said. “It would also benefit air quality and economic welfare. Also, it could provide lower cost transportation and recreation for lower-income students.”
Guthrie has been the president of the Eco club for two years and involved with it since his freshman year. He said that the goal of the Eco club is to educate students on environmental concerns and advocate for environmental health initiatives. Gurthrie said he hopes to talk to higher Berry authorities about the Berry connector being completed.
“I personally want to be a part of measurably reducing Berry’s greenhouse gas emissions before I graduate,” Guthrie said. “I hope by encouraging more pedestrian and biker access, I could in a small way reduce the amount of people driving and reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.”
One primary obstacle to the Berry connector is that students, faculty or staff trying to access the trail would need to cross Hwy 27. According to Smith, crossing this highway is very dangerous for pedestrians or bicyclists because it is a busy state road, and many cars tend to speed on it. One solution is a button installed that would signal pedestrians crossing. Smith said that city officials would have to put in a request to upgrade the pedestrian crosswalk for this to happen. Another solution would be to build a bridge over Hwy 27. However, Smith said that the construction of a bridge would most likely be too expensive to be approved.
“I don’t know if GDOT (Georgia Department of Transportation) would approve a bridge,” Smith said. “We’re kind of limited with safe connections, and I think the likelihood of a bridge is very low.”
According to Professor of Biology Cathy Borer, there are a variety of benefits with connecting Berry to the Rome trail system. She said the ability to bike instead of drive across Rome would help low-income students or any students wanting to save money. It would also promote improved physical activity and health among students, faculty and staff, according to Borer.
“Berry has the opportunity to allow students to access that trail system fairly easily and safely,” Borer said. “I think there’s a lot of potential for Berry students to easily access the trail system, but there’s that one connector piece that isn’t yet a reality but has the potential to become a reality.”
Borer explained that she bikes to school on a regular basis already. She said that she has personally noticed a lot of mental and emotional health benefits from biking rather than driving to Berry’s campus.
“I feel so much happier and better on the days I bike to school instead of drive,” Borer said. “Biking increases health sustainability and decreases reliance on fossil fuels. Besides, it’s just a much more pleasant commute to school.”