Smith to Seek State Funds for Riverwalk

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) — The idea has been around as long as the Columbus Riverwalk has been discussed…take the scenic bike and walking trail from Columbus along the Tombigbee River to the Lock and Dam and then Columbus Air Force Base.

Now, it could become a reality.

State Representative Jeff Smith says he will ask the Legislature to include $5 million a year in state bonds in each of the next five years to help fund the 14-mile extension. The current trail is 2.2 miles with an link to the downtown soccer complex and park to open soon. A pedestrian bridge over the old Tombigbee River provides another centerpiece.

When originally discussed more than a decade ago, supporters envisioned taking the trail at least to the lock and dam at the end of Wilkins-Wise Road and the most ambitious idea included going all the way to Columbus Air Force Base.

New additions to the master plan include extending in other directions along Moores Creek through the northern edge of downtown to some of the city’s key retail areas.

The plan for the air base extension includes playgrounds and rest stations at key points like the Lock and Dam, Dewayne Hayes Recreation area and the CAFB entrance on Highway 373.

Local and federal funds are expected to help cover some of the costs. But Smith says he’s willing to ask the state to fund the entire project as a way to safeguard the air base against future closures.

Smith is chairman of influential House Ways and Means Committee which writes most of the Legislature’s bond proposals. Smith plans to introduce the bill next week, but it could be late March before the House and Senate and Bryant administration agree on an overall bond package.

the state has issued bonds for everything from university additions to roads and economic development projects to local quality of life initiatives every year but one in the last 15 years.

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