VALDOSTA -- County Commissioners will explore the possibility of expanding the county's Greenspace program at its 5:30 p.m. meeting tonight at the Lowndes County Administration Building on Savannah Avenue.

Specifically, the Board will consider applying for a grant from the Georgia Recreational Trails Program to purchase land and easements for a trail along the Withlacoochee River.

The general area has already been targeted as a conservation area, with the county purchasing 96 acres along the river as its first Greenspace purchase.

The proposed trail would run from county property at Langdale Park, past the YMCA property to the Valdosta park at the confluence of the Withlacoochee and Little rivers.

County Engineer Charlie Clark said it was possible that not all property owners would want a trail on their land, but noted there was plenty of available land to produce an excellent trail.

The Recreational Trail program only requires that the trails be for non-motorized vehicles, meaning that both hikers and bicyclists could enjoy the area.

The Greenspace program was created in 2000 to protect rapidly growing counties from total development, and requires counties to set aside 20 percent of their total acreage into permanently undeveloped property.

The Recreational Trails program is distinct from Greenspace, but the county could use part of its Greenspace grant monies to acquire the necessary property. The grant awards range from $25,000 to $100,000 and require a 20 percent local match.

Lowndes County has approximately $175,000 remaining from its initial Greenspace grant and expects to receive another $200,000 in the next budget year.

Clark said the opportunity allowed the county to maximize its grant awards and goals of property acquisition because the Board could use grant money to obtain additional grants.

"We're trying to use Greenspace funds to leverage as much additional funding as we can," he said.

The Board will also take up a purchase request from Volunteer Fire Departments to replace 3-inch and 1.5-inch hoses as included in the county's 2001 budget, hold public hearings on rezoning request and Special Tax Lighting Districts as well as other county business.

To contact reporter Bill Roberts, please call 244-3400, ext. 245.

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