Also making a move toward protecting the site, Bartow County acquired 12 acres of greenspace on a portion of the land once used as burial mounds that is now believed to contain additional artifacts not located in previous archaeological digs. Those acres coupled with Cartersville's 10 acres of greenspace property covers a portion of the Leake site, which now is listed as one of the State's 10 Places in Peril by Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.
City Attorney David Archer said the Georgia Department of Transportation secured grant funding for interpretive signs on the acreage. But with no trail over Leake, it seems the signs are destined to be created and stored until a path is developed.
"This will be signs that will go on a trail to be built in the future, not the one they are just now doing. This will be on the actual Leake Mounds site and eventually we will apply for a grant, hopefully get it, and we can extend the trail over onto the site owned by the county and then the site owned by the city and that's where the signs will go," Archer said. "They're providing funding for the signs before we have funding to build the trail, which hopefully that will happen to."
Leake was discovered when GDOT conducted archaeological investigations for the widening of Ga. 113/61, Archer said, adding "they had run into very significant archeological features." At the same time a company with locations in Cartersville was preparing to develop 10 acres nearby and funded additional digging.
"When they did those additional investigations, the archaeologists found posts where huge timber had been in the ground for a palisade wall and they actually were able to follow that wall for some distance by digging down and scraping the ground, and you could see the difference in the color of the dirt where the timbers rotted over the years," Archer said. "They have established that there was a palisade wall around the village that was there."
To acquire the 10 acres on the west side of Ga. 113/61, the city traded property with the company, relocating the development, while Bartow applied for a grant to purchase a 12-acre portion of Leake on the east side of the highway.
"The city and the county entered into an intergovernmental agreement that both of those two tracts would be preserved and that historical trails would be created and that signage would be put on them to identify the historical significance of that site," Archer said.
At one time, the site, which predates the Etowah Indian Mounds, contained three earthen mounds, but from the 1930s to 1940s GDOT leveled two of those, using them as fill dirt to realign the highway. The current Ga. 113/61 was placed on top of the third mound, but Archer said although covered by the road, the mound is intact.
Now in its design phase, the city's trail leading to the Leake site -- which will span from the area of Cartersville Schools' bus barn, where it will connect to Etowah Riverwalk, across Pettit Creek near the old iron bridge to the trail head at the Ga. 113/61 bridge -- is being constructed with a Transportation Enhancement grant.
"When GDOT started the roadwork, one of the things that they were trying to do is mitigate some of the damages they had done to the Leake Mounds, and in doing this, we are able to use the existing bridge to tie it in to transportation and this trail. It met the criteria for what GDOT was trying to do so we were awarded this grant," said Greg Anderson, Cartersville Parks and Recreation director. "Our commitment was to get to the Ga. 113/61 bridge, the east side of the river, and when GDOT did the expansion of Ga. 113/61, the new bridge, that's one of the things they took into consideration. They went back and designed the bridge to where there are sidewalks on both sides."
Anderson added a culvert GDOT constructed under the bridge could be used to connect Cartersville's and Bartow County's greenspace, which is divided by the highway, and possible future trails.
In a recent city council meeting, Anderson told city leaders testing showed Baker Mill Pond Bridge, a historic iron structure, which they had hoped to incorporate into the link trail, is too deteriorated to use as pedestrian walkway. A separate pedestrian bridge now is in the works.
Other city paths currently in the design phase include Pettit Creek Trail, which Anderson said would eventually connect with the Leake Mounds/Etowah Riverwalk link trail. He added city research shows that the development of new trails and the connectivity of parks and existing trails are important to residents.
"Trails also fall in line with our philosophy in parks and recreation. We want to give people access to our parks. If it's not through being able to drive there, it's being able to travel there on a trail, walk there. It's trying to keep people fit, giving them opportunities for exercise. ... Utilizing the trails connected to our parks, to downtown, it gives the people of our community the ability to travel without using vehicles, gas. They can ride bikes, roller skate, or they could run or walk," Anderson said, adding that Cartersville currently has more than 5 miles of trails and offers 34 to 35 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents, while National Recreation and Park Association recommends communities have between 8 to 10 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents.