Athens City Council discussed joining a council of governments with neighboring localities to plan and implement an 88-mile trail system at Monday’s meeting.

Bailey’s Trail, which was proposed by Wayne National Forest, has been in talks with local and regional governments for four years.

The council of governments, if Athens’ membership is approved by city council, would consist of cities and townships affected by the construction of Bailey’s Trail and the proposed trail systems. The council reviewed a draft of an agreement “for the establishment of what would be called the Outdoor Recreation Council of Appalachia, councils of government,” President Christine Knisely said. 

“What it’s been churned as is this council of governments would be a way for us to move forward with this combination of a conservation project and outdoor recreation,” Knisely said, adding that tourism the trails could bring to the community may also provide an economic benefit to the city. 

Mayor Steve Patterson said he did not know which cities are planning to join the council of governments, but representatives from Nelsonville and Chauncey among others were present at Bailey’s Trail meetings in September. 

Ohio University also has part in the planning. While there is no designated official yet in charge of this project, a representative from the university told council those “talks were being had.”

Joining the council of governments would not obligate the city to plan or invest in the trail system, Patterson said. Knisely said the trail system’s construction is estimated to cost a total of $10 million. The council discussed paying for Athens’ portion in part with transient guest taxes and considered a “pay for success” model. 

City Council also discussed the application to Ohio Department of Transportation to make Athens a Transportation Improvement District. The money from this categorization will go to the Stimson Avenue project, Patterson said.  

The Finance and Personnel Committee relayed that Athens Department of Police Chief Tom Pyle asked City Council for $12,000 to replace surveillance equipment, an upgrade Patterson said is “much needed.” 

The council will also consider hiring an employee to clean Uptown Athens on high event mornings and beautify the streets, Patterson said. They would start with one day a week and then the project would be monitored through the summer. 

@maddixbutina

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