Carrollton is constructing a 16-mile trail system designed for pedestrians and non-motorized uses that will connect the city’s downtown to UWG’s campus and other destination areas.
The University of West Georgia (UWG) has become a vital asset to the city of Carrollton and to the surrounding region. The university is one of the biggest financial engines located in the area, contributing more than $455,593,962 million to the west Georgia regional economy in fiscal year 2013, according to a report commissioned by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. With more than 12,000 students, UWG is continuing to grow as an institution, allowing the city to work on new projects that make Carrollton more appealing to college students and the community.
“UWG and the city of Carrollton have a real good relationship with each other,” said Assistant City Manager Timothy Grizzard. The city and university have established a collaboration that allows the school to keep state government funding if it is unable to spend it in time.
“The school gets funding from the state and if they don’t spend it by the end of the fiscal year they could lose it,” Grizzard explained. “The school can do an intergovernmental agreement with us and it will encumber it and they get to keep it. It’s a real simple process and it allows the university to keep the money from going back to the state and allows them to use the money to continue to build the campus.”
In addition to working together to keep state funds in the community, the continued development and construction of the UWG campus is something the city and school work on collaboratively. The city manages numerous UWG construction projects, and also gave UWG 250 acres of land the school used to build its current football stadium.
“We do a lot of things with the university that are very positive,” Grizzard said.
Grizzard anticipates the relationship between Carrollton and the University of West Georgia will continue to grow, as both entities continue to think of ways to improve the city and make it more appealing to college students.
UWG supports the downtown Carrollton area by hosting different events, which the city and local residents appreciate.
“They have events in town, which is nice because we think those events do a lot for downtown area, and we also realize they don’t have to do that,” Grizzard said. “They can have their events on their own campus, yet they come to the downtown and it helps us out.”
UWG President Dr. Kyle Marrero, described the relationship between the school and city as one that is focused on bringing jobs to the local Carrollton area.
“We are in continuous communication with the city,” Marrero said. “There’s a constant collaboration to bring new industries and jobs to Carrollton. Our relationship with the city is robust and continuous. At the end of the day we not only want students to be successful but we also want them to be able to find a job in the West Georgia region. So partnering with the city, and Chamber of Commerce within Carroll County, is a constant collaboration of trying to bring in jobs.”
The city and school continue to work on ways to make downtown Carrollton more appealing to college students. Downtown includes a city square, a popular amphitheater and shops, bars and restaurants that students often patronize.
With the square having so much to offer, Grizzard said there is a need to make some changes in order to increase student activity and to make the downtown area more of a gathering place where students can hang out and feel safe.
“There is a lot of talk about changing the square to a round-a-bout with pavers instead of a basic intersection,” Grizzard said. “This will make it more appealing and safer for college students. The idea is to make the square a pedestrian place that cars go, instead of place for cars where pedestrians go.”
Additionally, Carrollton has begun the construction of the GreenBelt, a 16-mile trail system designed for pedestrians and non-motorized uses. Once it is complete, the trail will connect existing neighborhoods, UWG’s campus, city parks and several commercial shopping areas to downtown. It will be completed in the next two years. Marrero is excited about the project because it will connect downtown with the school.
Another project that Marrero hopes to convince the city to consider is the beautification of Maple Street, the street that leads from the front of the university campus straight to the downtown area.
“I want Maple Street to the downtown area to be lined with our light poles for all of the utilities to be underground and for it to be a beautiful walk way,” Marrero said. “I want everyone that’s headed downtown to feel that physical connection on Maple Street. So that if you decided to walk downtown from the school, then you would have the type of walk-way that would be lined with our wonderful light poles and signs and would make you feel like the downtown area and university are closer together.”