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Laura Richards | Founder & Chair of the Friends of Carrollton GreenBelt, LLC

Share with us your background that led to you founding Carrollton GreenBelt.

I am from Carrollton, but left in 1990 to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Then I moved back in 2009. While I was away, I biked across the United States and then led as a European guide for Vermont Bicycle Touring. That’s when it clicked for me regarding trails. I first rode with guests on trails separated from roads in the Netherlands. There I saw people holding hands while they biked and carrying pets and their groceries to the extent that it became more than a trail, but a really busy public space. Our Greenbelt serves that role as one of Carrollton's newest parks and showcases local natural wonders. It’s a great way to enjoy the great outdoors.

What’s the most rewarding part of what you do/have done at GreenBelt?

To see the city of Carrollton submit its application to be a bike friendly community was the most rewarding part to me. That designation is through the League of American Bicyclists and we heard in May 2017 that Carrollton achieved bronze level status. Carrollton joins nine other Georgia cities in this national accreditation. In August, the University of West Georgia applied as a bike friendly campus and was awarded bronze level and I’m so excited for them. The trail has transformed our city and the university.

The University of West Georgia led the University System of Georgia in having the first campus trail and, from the beginning, they’ve been a public partner of the GreenBelt. So what's been good for the city of Carrollton with the GreenBelt, has also positively impacted the University of West Georgia. "Bicycle friendly" intersects with education in terms of more sustainable practices in a city or university setting.

Share other successes you’ve had on one of other non-profits you serve.

I've also served as a national board member for the Trust for Public Land since 2014. I was appointed as a member of the Carroll County Board of Health from 2015-2018. During that time, Carroll County's ranking in Georgia improved from 58th in the State to 49th in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's County Health Rankings. There are 159 counties in Georgia, so that was a big improvement and that happened with last year's ranking so from 2016 to 2017 there was that improvement. One of the categories in the survey is access to exercise opportunities.

Who has been your mentor for GreenBelt?

Jim and Sarah Kennedy with the Path Foundation in Atlanta. The Path Foundation was the project manager for the GreenBelt. Their Executive Director Ed McBrayer and the Path Foundation have built more than 250 miles of trails over the southeast, so they’ve served as real mentors for me.

The volunteers who have adopted sections of the GreenBelt through the Keep Carroll Beautiful and Adopt a Trail programs also inspire me. In addition, the City of Carrollton Parks & Recreation Department associates who maintain the GreenBelt to such a quality standard.

What are the philanthropic efforts at Southwire?

The legacy of my mother - Alice Huffard Richards – and the charitable fund established in her name is part of the community. I sit on the fund’s board, along with a few of my siblings. It makes an impact in the West Georgia community in Carroll, Haralson, & Heard Counties. These grants help education and the environment.

What are some of your outside interests?

My husband and I have 3 daughters (including 2 teenagers), so we need activities we can do all together and the GreenBelt really fits in terms of getting outside. We also really enjoy the cultural activities that are on the square in Carrollton. I do enjoy gardening, birding, running/walking, and turning off my phone! I recently attended a Northwestern Kellogg course last week on family enterprise governance and I do see more education as a next move personally and professionally.






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