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By BETH BUNCH, Hub City Spokes


If the houses toward the north end of Busch-man Street could talk, they’d have stories of how they’ve seen the city grow. Some of the older homes have tax records that date back to the 1890s and saw the day when there was no indoor plumbing or electricity.


In the near future, the neighborhood will see a new addition of sorts as the Longleaf Trace continues its stretch to the  northeast. This time the destination is from the Hattiesburg Train Depot, down Buschman and through the woods and under the railroad trestle to Chain Park.


Mayor Toby Barker and other city officials were on hand last Friday at the corner of Buschman and Ash streets where city workers are busy widening and extending the sidewalks, which will serve as a Trace extension.


Barker referred to the Longleaf Trace as one of the crown jewels of Hattiesburg and South Mississippi.


The Trace, which starts in Prentiss in Jefferson Davis County, is a 41-mile paved pedestrian, equestrian, rollerblade and bicycle trail that runs southwest to Hattiesburg, welcoming people from across the city, state, region and beyond.


 “Our collective vision for the Longleaf Trace has always been big,” said Barker of the new .85-mile expansion.


The Trace has seen several expansions during the past several years, the most notable from the the University of Southern Mississippi to North Main Street and North Main to the Hattiesburg Depot. Spurs to Edwards Street and the the Hattiesburg Zoo were completed last year. Barker said the addition would connect the Trace to one of the city’s hidden treasures – Chain Park.


The $680,000 project is an 80/20 match, which included a generous donation from the Canadian National Railroad.


Barker thanked City Council members for voting to spend money for the match, including Ward 2 Councilwoman Deborah Delgado, whose district this latest project sits in. With this expansion the Trace now touches every council member’s ward.


“We want to thank Mayor (Johnny) Dupree, who was able to get the ball rolling several years ago,” said Barker. “This has been a long-standing plan for the Longleaf Trace. His guiding this project through a lot of federal regulations and most importantly, negotiating with the railroad was no easy task, so we want to say thank you to him.”


Barker also recognized Neel Schaffer Engineers as well as Precision Construction, city engineer Lamar Rutland and Canadian National Railroad for working with the city on the project.


The mayor said with this construction the city would look to where they could take the Longleaf Trace next.


District 4’s Mary Dryden encouragd all members of the community to be aware of the Trace and what it has to offer as far as a healthy way to live.


“We want to promote healthy lifestyles in our city and things that can involve entire families and the Trace is a good example of that,” she said.


Construction of the project will take several months, which will require a connection through the woods and under the railroad trestle before reaching Chain Park.

Barker noted that the Longleaf Trace is one of the longer trails in Mississippi, if not the longest.


“With this addition of .85 miles, this will push the Trace to just over 44 miles long,” he said. “That’s a real accomplishment and hopefully just the start of more connectivity in our city. Our goal is to have neighborhoods and pathways lead to the Trace, so no matter where you live in Hattiesburg, there’s a way for you to get here by bike or by foot.”


He noted that last year a railbed from Ronie to Edwards Street was established and at the same time, a pathway at William Carey on Tuscan.


“The idea is to create some clear connectivity to WCU from downtown, connection to Town Square Park,” Barker said. “The more neighborhoods, the better quality of life we’ll enjoy in the city. Healthy lifestyles come with that and tourism because people come from all over to use the Trace.


Mayor Toby Barker will announce the beginning of construction for the Longleaf Trace extension project. This project will connect the Longleaf Trace from the Train Depot to Chain Park.

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