A $6 million grant to Atlanta’s PATH Foundation will allow it to connect Paulding’s top tourist draw to downtown Atlanta by 2021.

The grant will allow the Foundation to extend the Silver Comet Trail from its current south terminus in Smyrna to the popular Atlanta BeltLine on the city’s Westside, a news release stated.

It will serve as a connector between downtown and the BeltLine trail near the future Westside Park at Bellwood Quarry, according to a news release from the Cox Foundation.

The Silver Comet Trail runs for 61 miles in Georgia, from Smyrna to the Alabama state line near Cedartown.

Paulding County’s section of the Silver Comet runs for about 17 miles and is the county’s top tourist draw with estimates ranging from 750,000 to 1 million visitors annually.

The trail enters Paulding from the east near Powder Springs and runs west through Hiram and behind the Paulding Chamber of Commerce in Dallas.

It then veers northwest through parts of the Paulding Wildlife Management Area and enters Polk County near Braswell and the 800-foot Brushy Mountain tunnel.

The Polk County part runs through Rockmart and Cedartown before connecting at the state line with the 33-mile Chief Ladiga Trail, which ends in Anniston, Alabama.

The addition will create the longest continuous paved trail in the U.S. at 105.2 miles, the release stated.

Cox’s grant will go toward PATH’s “Mile 300” campaign, which will result in the completion of the Foundation’s 300th mile of trail by its 30th anniversary in 2021, the release stated.

“In its 27-year history, PATH has developed more than 280 miles of trail for commuting and recreating, which have helped Atlanta join the ranks of the top pedestrian and bike trail cities in the country,” the release stated.

The Cox Foundation has been the PATH Foundation’s largest private donor since its inception.

Jim Kennedy, chairman of Cox Enterprises, said, “We have supported PATH all these years because we have seen how PATH trails make Atlanta a better place for everyone to live.

“They improve our quality of life, encourage healthy lifestyles and get people outside connecting with each other and our city,” he said.

Kennedy is serving as chairman for the Foundation’s “Mile 300” campaign and has chaired each of the previous capital campaigns, the release stated.

Ed McBrayer, executive director of the PATH Foundation, said, “Year-after-year, Cox has supported our efforts to make Atlanta a greener, healthier and more connected city.

“We can’t do what we do without this type of unwavering support,” he said.

The James M. Cox Foundation is named in honor of Cox Enterprises’ founder and provides funding for capital campaigns and special projects in communities where the company operates, the release stated.

In Atlanta, Cox Enterprises owns and operates WSB-TV, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and radio stations 97.1 The River, B 98.5, Kiss 104.1 and 95.5 WSB, among other holdings.

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