Officials view plans for link between museum trails, Ladiga

Jul. 14—On Thursday afternoon city of Anniston officials, Jacksonville State representatives and other stakeholders learned about a master plan that will overhaul the trail system at the Anniston Museum and Gardens and could link it to the Chief Ladiga Trail system.

Will Hargrove with consulting firm Alta Planning + Design provided a virtual presentation of the trail master plan for the museum, as well as a crosswalk feasibility study conducted by Sain Associates for connecting the east side of McClellan Boulevard with the future Chief Ladiga Trail.

Toby Bennington, director of economic development and city planning for the city of Anniston, said the crosswalk would need to be approved by the Alabama Department of Transportation, but funding for the crosswalk could come from the Calhoun Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) .

Sain Associates is the engineering firm hired by the city to develop the Chief Ladiga Trail extension from Mike Tucker Park to downtown Anniston at the Multimodal Center at 126 W. 4th Street.

Last December the Anniston City Council approved a memorandum of understanding between the city and Jacksonville State University to develop a trail master plan for the museum campus. Consultant firm Alta Planning + Design was contracted to draft the master plan that also incorporated the labor and expertise of JSU's sustainable trail science program.

Bennington said the team of Alan Robison, executive director of the Anniston Museum & Gardens, Tim Linblom, Jennifer Green, Ross Martin, Dan Spaulding and Hayes Jackson provided key direction and input to the consulting group. Charles Cochran with Sain Associates was instrumental in developing the crosswalk analysis.

On Friday Robison said the trail master plan was the culmination of many months of planning and work.

"We're very grateful that the city invested the funds to do a study of how the Anniston Museum and Gardens campus will coordinate its trail system with the future trail system that is the Chief Ladiga Trail," Robison said.

Robison said the master plan includes two phases.

The first phase deals with how the museum is using its grounds now and how the property can be used more effectively and efficiently for current trails and future trails. Phase two concerns how the museum campus will connect with the city as a whole, he said.

Robison pointed out that the museum complex is centrally located between what will be the Chief Ladiga Trail, McClellan soccer fields and trails and the Coldwater Mountain bike trails.

"For us to be coordinated and be a multimodal community we have to connect this museum campus with the rest of the city," he said.

"We're very grateful that the city sees the opportunity that this presents itself. This is the right time to be doing this study because Ladiga will be coming soon, and we want to be prepared for it and how to best connect into it," Robison said.

Robison praised the Alta consulting firm and the city's leadership for making this happen for the museum campus.

Bennington said the trail master plan will be integrated within the city's existing bicycle and pedestrian plan.

According to drawings by Sain Associates the Chief Ladiga Trail will have a spur that will lead to a proposed crosswalk located at the intersection of AL-21/McClellan Boulevard and the US 431 southbound ramps. Improvements to the intersection and the proposed crosswalk include crossing signals with buttons for pedestrians and cyclists, several "refuge islands" to accommodate cycle and pedestrian traffic. A trail from the museum complex would connect to the crosswalk allowing easy access to the museum complex.

Bennington said the next step for the crosswalk will include studies on how the trail and crosswalk work would affect traffic and pedestrians, along with discussions with the Alabama Department of Transportation and Sain Associates.

Bennington said if ALDOT approves the crosswalk plan then grants will be sought for funding it.

Robison said the trail master plan for the museum complex would complement the topography for new trails and may alter the paths of current trails. Work will commence on the trails once funding has been obtained, he said.

Bids will go out in August for a contractor to build the Chief Ladiga Trail extension, which should be completed by November 2024, Bennington said.

Staff writer Bill Wilson: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @bwilson_star.