Money for Dalton trails.

Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce President Rob Bradham, left, listens as McKee Foods Corp. officials Connie Vaughan, center, and Stephanie Massey talk about a Dalton trail project at the chamber Thursday.

Plans to build a hiking and walking trail that will connect Dalton’s Crown Mill Village area to Haig Mill Lake got a big boost Thursday. McKee Foods, the maker of Little Debbie snacks, presented a check for $20,000 to city officials for the project.

The check was the first grant presented by the company’s Outdoor Happiness program, which will fund one project in each of the nation’s 50 states to promote outdoor activities.

“Our goal is to encourage physical activity and to help communities encourage people to get out and enjoy the outdoors,” said Connie Vaughan, manager of government relations at McKee.

Vaughan, Dalton City Administrator Ty Ross and Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce President Rob Bradham had gotten to know each other through their mutual involvement in Thrive 2055, which brings together government officials and business leaders from 16 counties in and around Chattanooga to better plan for the region’s future.

“Connie contacted me and asked if there might be a project in Dalton that would fit (Outdoor Happiness), so I contacted Ty,” Bradham said.

The Mill Creek River Walk, as city officials are calling it, would start near the Chattanooga Avenue pocket park and run along the side of Mill Creek north about a mile toward Haig Mill Lake. The plan is that it will eventually link to hiking and bicycling trails that will circle Haig Mill Lake that are going to be built with money from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) voters approved last year.

The Dalton Civitan Club had previously pledged $20,000 for the project. The city has also applied for a $100,000 grant from the Georgia Recreational Trails program.

Ross says the amount of funding the city receives will determine the type of trail the city builds.

Mayor Dennis Mock said the trail will be a “game changer” for the city.

“I think that this, along with the Haig Mill project and all of the other things we are doing in terms of outdoor activities, will make this a greener city, more attractive to visitors and to young professionals,” he said.

Mock said he believes having a company such as McKee give the project a vote of confidence should make it easier for the city to get other grants for the Mill Creek River Walk.

Vaughan said McKee officials would like to see that.

“It is certainly our hope that we can encourage others to donate to the city and help make this a reality,” she said.

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