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Hodges' equestrian trail moving forward

By Staff
Jonathan Willis
With so many questions about economic development projects, the town of Hodges has chosen to take their own unique approach.
While other towns throughout the area are looking to build spec buildings and industrial parks, Hodges is looking at developing a tourist attraction that could link all of the west end of Franklin County.
Hodges is currently seeking federal funding that they would use to develop an equestrian trail.
The town has the right-of-way along the old railroad leading from Hodges to Red Bay, as well as land owned by the Bear Creek Development Authority, that would comprise a 42-mile long trail.
"If everything goes accordingly, we could have the longest trail in the state of Alabama," Hodges Mayor Ed Crouch said.
"It's something that could bring jobs to Franklin County without any negative impact at all. Tourism dollars really clean up a local economy."
Crouch said the trail, if built, would allow the town to attract people from all over the nation.
"We are approaching this as an economic development project," Crouch said. "We want to use the local and regional assets that we have here to attract people to the area."
The community has hosted several public hearings and will have another at 6 p.m. on April 30 at the Hodges Community Center.
"From the public hearings, we have found that people want to develop, but they also want to stay rural," Crouch said.
Part of the project is known as ICE-T, which stands for the Illinois Central Equestrian Trail. It is a proposed 24-mile long multi-use trial that would link Hodges, Red Bay and Vina.
Crouch said the trail system would incorporate the educational center on Bear Creek Lake.
"Everyone has their projects to do, but this is unique and it's a good time to do it."