Georgia DNR Announces $2M+ Grant Toward Construction of the Firefly Trail

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on Monday announced selection of nine 2020-2021 Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Program (GOSP) “Conserve Georgia” grants for conservation and outdoor recreation projects. Among those projects advancing to the Second Level Application stage is construction of 6.75 miles of the Firefly Trail, a planned 39-mile rail-trail along and near the abandoned rail bed of the historic Athens Branch of the Georgia Railroad between Union Point and Athens. 

The Firefly Trail GOSP application was submitted by Greene County in partnership with the cities of Maxeys, Union Point and Woodville, Firefly Trail, Inc., and the Southern Off-Road Bicycling Association’s Athens chapter. Project partners received assistance from the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission in preparing Pre-Application materials last fall.

“It has been exciting to watch the Firefly Trail project emerge through the legislative process and become a reality,” noted Rep. Trey Rhodes (R-Greensboro), a strong supporter of the Firefly Trail since well before being elected to represent the citizens of Georgia House District 120 in 2014. “It is a very fine example of public and private entities working together towards an end product that will enhance the lives of many,” Rhodes continued. “It will provide health and fitness, entertainment, and economic development for years to come. I am very proud of the cooperative work that Greene County, Union Point, Maxeys, and Woodville have done to bring the Firefly Trail to life. I also want to say a special thank you and congratulations to all the volunteers who have worked many years to make this a reality.”

“Greene County is very excited about the Firefly Trail project and the outdoor recreational opportunities the trail provides to our citizens and visitors,” stated Gary Usry, Chairman of the Greene County Board of Commissioners and a member of Greene County’s Firefly Trail Local Action Committee. “We look forward to working with the DNR and all of the principal stakeholders to keep the momentum going on this project,” Usry continued, “and we are very thankful to have been selected to advance to the Second Level Application for the grant funding.”

Georgia DNR will provide $2,109,375 toward the $2.83 million project according to stipulations of the reimbursable GOSP program. Project partners have together committed to contributing $721,625 in cash and in-kind match.

The Second Level Application stage, with runs through May, will involve preparation of more detailed project plans and cost projections as well as compliance with environmental review requirements. Project agreements will be signed during the summer and the grant term will be 24 months. Greene County has enlisted the PATH Foundation to assist in completing this portion of the project. The PATH Foundation has been a key partner in the creation of several of Georgia's most significant multi-use trails, including the Silver Comet Trail and the Atlanta Beltline.

Four segments of the Firefly Trail, each approximately one mile in length, have been completed to-date in Athens, Maxeys, Union Point and Winterville. Several additional miles of trail are now under construction in Athens-Clarke County, but the GOSP award will more than double the completed trail mileage. The project's goal is to complete the trail in Union Point, Woodville and unincorporated Greene County, and extend the existing Maxeys section to that city's southern city limits.

Firefly Trail, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established to promote the trail’s creation and use, has worked diligently for a full decade advocating, fundraising, working with local governments and building a network of supporters.

“All of us at Firefly Trail Inc. are ecstatic about the news,” stated FTI President Mark Ralston upon receipt of the DNR announcement. “We are ready and eager to work with our partners in Greene County, Union Point, Woodville and Maxeys to build this newest section of the Firefly Trail and begin the process of linking our existing segments together. We are deeply grateful to our partner communities, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and Rep. Trey Rhodes, and want to extend a special thanks to the hundreds of trail supporters, especially the Riverview Foundation, who have made it possible for us to help our partner communities with the matching funds required by this grant. Together, we are making it happen.”

DNR’s Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Program, which supports a variety of conservation and recreation projects across the state, was established by passage of the 2018 Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act (HR 238) and a Constitution Amendment supported by 83% of the electorate in the November 2018 general election. The inaugural GOSP funding cycle occurred during the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Grant and loan requests for local park and trial projects, ranging from $500,000 to $3 million, are reviewed annually. Eligible applicants include qualified local governments, recreation authorities and state agencies, and certain non-governmental entities.

A total of 51 GOSP Pre-Applications, requesting a total of $81 million in funding, were reviewed by DNR staff and the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund Board of Trustees this winter. A preliminary slate of proposals was selected and passed along for review and approval by the Board of Natural Resources and the Appropriations Subcommittees of the State House of Representatives and State Senate.

In announcing the nine projects chosen to advance toward funding, DNR Commissioner Mark Williams stated, “It has never been more important than here in 2021 for Georgia to preserve and expand conservation efforts as millions of Georgians head outdoors for mental and physical health during these trying times. These grants go a long way to support this vitally important mission.”

For more information about the Firefly Trail, please visit