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In the late 1800s, when the Georgia Railroad trains rumbled through the rural darkness between Athens and Union Point, embers would flicker in the night sky from the wood-burning engines. Farmers began calling the line “Firefly.” Today, locals are working to covert that old rail bed into a 39-mile multi-use trail.
In 2017, the effort reached a major milestone with the opening of the Firefly Trail’s first section. Athens, a thriving college town home to the University of Georgia, is the northern gateway to the rail-trail. The new paved pathway begins downtown at a trailhead on East Broad Street and travels through Dudley Park, which offers picnic tables and other amenities, as well as the opportunity to connect to the North Oconee River Greenway. A highlight of the rail-trail is the 500-foot long bridge rising 40 feet above the North Oconee River; it incorporates piers from the old Georgia Railroad and has large platforms for taking in the views. A new switchback ramp provides access from S Poplar Street. This 2.85 mile northern section of the trail ends at the intersection of Winterville and Hannock Rd.
The disconnected segment in Winterville passes by historical buildings along Main Street in the small town, including the Carter-Coile Country Doctor’s Museum, which provides a rare glimpse into a rural medical practice more than a century old, and a restored train depot painted a welcoming yellow.
Additional "Model Mile" segments of trail have been constructed in the towns of Maxeys, running north from Cherry Street, and Union Point, running north from N Rhodes Street to the town elementary school. While there is still a long way to go before these pieces of trail are connected, in the meantime it gives the local communities a pleasant recreation opportunity and offers a nice taste of what the completed trail from Athens to Union Point will offer.
In Athens, a trailhead is available on East Broad Street just west of Pottery Street. Parking is also available in Dudley Park (100 Dudley Park Rd.).
No dedicated parking is currently available for the segments in Winterville, Maxeys, or Union Point; parking may be available near the trailheads, but be sure to follow any posted signs and regulations.
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