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Taking steps toward Huntsville’s ‘Big Picture’ plan: Greenways, Ditto Landing

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Huntsville`s greenways are some of the city's most loved amenities.

Since the first segment opened in the early 1990s, the system has grown to more than 20 miles of paved, multi-use paths in every corner of the city. But, as the 2006 greenway plan shows, we have a long way to go.

That plan proposed 188 miles of paved, enjoyable trails. So far, they've constructed about 26. Thousands of the outdoorsy type take to these trails everyday. So, the community wants to see those proposed miles paved.

Dennis Madsen is Manager of Urban & Long Range Planning for the city. He said the community has spoken.

"There is a thirst out there for those sorts of things, and there's a lot of interest in us expanding those offerings," he said.

City leaders launched a 'Big Picture' plan for development. Greenways falls into that plan.

"It's getting more and more popular. And, a lot of folks are viewing it not just in terms of recreation and not just in terms of amenities, but it's also an economic development tool."

Madsen compared the concept to the Beltline in Atlanta. Sort of like a 'if we build it, they will come' idea. These greenways could help bring huge bike tours to Huntsville.

They also provide safe walking trails for residents like John Hone, and his pup Grace.

"It's convenient, and you don't have to deal with cars. You can walk about as far as you want to," Hone said with a smile.

Which is why building more is a win-win for everyone, taking cost into mind.

"I think it's for everybody. It's good for everybody."

To get started with this plan, city leaders will pick the key trails that would connect the most people, then find the money to fund them.

A focus group on developing the big picture greenway plan will meet the week of july 29th.

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Another part of the 'Big Picture' plan that's getting some attention, redeveloping Ditto Landing.  What's now mainly a marina and campground.. could soon be more.

Huntsville residents weighed in on the future of their riverfront last month at that focus group.  And, these talks go hand-in-hand with hopes of expanding the city's greenways.

"One of the ways to make Ditto Landing more popular and a little more useful is to improve connections to it," said Madsen. "And connections don't always mean roadways, a lot of the time they mean greenways."

Leaders took the ideas discussed at last month's focus group and divided them into eight categories, from recreation to transportation. Tuesday, they released a survey. It asks participants to rate the ideas based on priority.

Data from the survey will help inform short- and long-term plans for Ditto Landing and the greater Huntsville riverfront.

"The more connections you can plug into it the more people you can get down there and the more utility you can get out of it, the more activity you can get out of it. Then, potentially, the more easily you can actually add restaurants or other amenities to it."

That survey is available until July 29.

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