A Dream Could Create an Economic Boost
By Jack Criss • Photography by Johnny Jennings
Greenwood native and current Vicksburg-based attorney, Wilson Carroll, is an avid cyclist. And his passion, which is shared by many hundreds of thousands of people across the country, has the possibility of turning into not only a rider’s paradise but also an economic hotbed.
The old C and G railroad line, which used to run across the state from Greenville to Columbus, has a portion that Carroll has been working for years to turn into a bike trail. “It’s a 92-mile stretch of the line, close to Carrollton, that completely washed out in 2001 and has since been left dormant,” explains Carroll. “I started pressing, in 2008, for the idea of a bike trail on that stretch. I’ve done many long bike trail rides myself, including bike camping—literally camping off the back of a back—and so I reached out to the owners of C and G because I saw the possibilities of a beautiful trail similar to ones I’d ridden on myself.”
The process from that initial dialogue went on for many years, says Carroll, and, subsequently, when C and G was bought out by Tennessee and Wyoming, the largest operator of short haul railroads in the country, it appeared Carroll’s vision might be over and done. “Tennessee and Wyoming didn’t have any interest—I was informed that they were in the ‘railroad business’,” recalls Carroll. “Attempts were even made to repair the stretch I wanted by the company. All the while, I was still making regular attempts at outreach and even got a call from Jim Ervine, T and W’s Director of the Southeast Region. He liked my idea, but it still seemed like a pipe dream.”
Then, about a month ago while at his Rotary Club meeting in Vicksburg listening to guest speaker Senator Roger Wicker, Carroll’s phone rang and Ervine was on the line. “He called to tell me that a final decision had been made, by corporate, that the railroad line was not going to be rebuilt and wanted to know if I was still interested in pursuing the idea of a trail. Of course, after so many years of trying, I immediately said ‘yes.’ Tears came to my eyes,” admits Carroll. “I approached Senator Wicker right then and there on the spot about it, who was receptive and helpful, and have since been in touch with MDOT and other state agencies to take the necessary, prerequisite steps and get the project moving.”
Carroll says that the stretch is ideal for the bike trail. “Not only is it a beautiful, breathtaking track that riders from over the country would flock to,” he says, “but the economic impact to the smaller communities and businesses along the way would be enormous. Serious cyclists number in the thousands and tend to have disposable income—trust me, they will spend their money. Plus, I also see possible new businesses, like B and B’s and wineries, that would pop up due to this influx of people coming through.”
While Carroll stresses that the proposed bike trail is only in the preliminary stages, he is optimistic. “We’re in a holding pattern right now because of all the legal issues involved with the railroad company, real estate people, etc. But, the State might get involved with the project on several levels and I’m hoping we’ll hear something within the next few months. Once we get the green light, it will still then be another two to three years to clear out and resurface the area and have it ready. But stay tuned—it will be worth the wait!” enthuses Carroll.