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Locust Grove makes progress on train viewing platform

 

By Alex Welch
Assistant Editor 

  Initial construction on the train viewing platform in downtown Locust Grove began on Jan. 7. After several hiccups in the construction process and constant inconvenience from Mother Nature, the platform is nearing completion.

Workers from the Department of Corrections construct the frame of the train viewing platform in Locust Grove. Roofing the structure will be the next step in the process.                                                Photo by Alex Welch

  Today, progress can be easily monitored, as the layout of the viewing area is currently being put together. The structure in place at this point is comprised of treated lumber on top of the concrete slab. Mayor Robert S. Price says workers will begin putting on the roofing within the coming weeks. “Things are moving quite well. Our timetable is moving near,” Price said. “The building should be done by July. Probably before then.”

  A summertime end date for the building still won’t be the last piece of the puzzle for the location. Parking is another issue currently being addressed. The lot next to the viewing platform will be paved to add 37 spaces. It will have pervious pavement, which is designed to allow water to seep in. This helps to recharge groundwater and reduce stormwater runoff, preventing the water from rolling off to the side requiring more drainage.

  Along with paving the lot next to the viewing platform, other gravel lots, including some near Cleveland Avenue, are going to be expanded to create more space for visitors and tourists. While the platform project should be finished by this summer, the parking infrastructure won’t be complete until a later date. Price said this part of construction should be done in the fall.

  The bulk of the funds used for building the train viewing platform comes from the local hotel/motel tax. Some money from SPLOST is being used for lighting. Paving the lots is the most cost-worthy aspect of the project. The City is saving money in several areas, though, as City Manager Tim Young points out. “An anonymous donor provided the treated lumber for the project. We wanted to make note of them, but they chose to remain anonymous. We’re grateful for their contribution.”

  Donated materials is aiding in keeping the cost on track with initial figures. “The first projections estimated the cost to be from $100,000 to $200,000,” said Young. Right now, Young says there is $150,000 available to spend in the budget. The city spent $21,000 in the 2012 fiscal year on legal and engineering fees, and several other items during the preliminary planning process. A total of $34,000 has been spent in the current fiscal year. The remaining list of construction items includes “fencing and parking lot improvements,” according to Young. The Department of Corrections is also lending a hand in keeping the cost down. The City is using 11 inmates, with the supervision of two guards, to construct the platform. “Senator (Rick) Jeffares and Representative (Andy) Welch were both crucial in getting the assistance from the Department of Corrections,” said Young.

  Acquiring labor was not the only delay in construction. The storm drain underneath the foundation had to be relaid, as the old one was rusted out and in need of replacing. Price said the soil in the area was unsuitable to construct upon. The area was dug out and replaced with new soil. Primary engineering plans needed to be altered with several issues occurring. The weather has also deterred construction at times. According to the National Weather Service, Atlanta experienced nearly twice as much rainfall as its yearly average in February.

  Price and Young are both optimistic about the increase in tourism due to the platform. “A lot of people go to Folkston for their fascination with trains,” said Young. Folkston is roughly four hours south of Locust Grove, and the train viewing platform there attracts visitors from all over Georgia. Now Locust Grove will have another tourism draw of its own. Price said speakers are being added so visitors can hear train conductors talk as they pass by, another feature that makes Locust Grove’s platform unique.

  The platform area can also be used for periodic vendors, farmer markets and special events, like Locust Grove Day. It’s unclear if any type of souvenirs will be sold at the platform. The city is currently searching for a new main street manager. The person filling that role will be allowed to make decisions regarding souvenirs and memorabilia.

  Young said anywhere from 40 to over 55 trains pass through the city each day. With so much activity in the area, an increase in visitors is sure to follow the completion of the platform later this year.

 

 

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