The Longleaf Trace was completed as a Rails-to-Trails conservancy project in 2000, erected along a portion of the abandoned line of the Mississippi Central Railroad. The railroad was once a bustling industry in the Pine Belt region of Mississippi, servicing the flourishing timber industry of the area. In the 1920’s much of the work was done, although timber remains a specialty trade of the region. By the 1970’s the number of railroads once in service was no longer necessary, and the Illinois Central line of the Mississippi Central Railroad whistled no more, turning the old route quiet for more than a decade.
A group of locals committed to the preservation of the old railroad made certain that the original trail was preserved and work soon began to pave the path for a new purpose – a pedestrian, equestrian, and bicycle trail for residents and visitors to enjoy. In the early 1990’s work began to remove the tracks between Prentiss and Hattiesburg, paving the way for today’s trail. Beginning at the gateway in Hattiesburg near The University of Southern Mississippi, the Longleaf Trace traverses through five communities for 44 miles of nature-filled fun and challenge!
The Longleaf Trace is a part of the Pearl & Leaf Rivers Rails-to-Trails Recreational District, a governing authority and joint venture of the counties of Forrest, Jefferson Davis, and Lamar and the municipalities of Bassfield, Hattiesburg, Prentiss, and Sumrall, created by the authority granted in MS Code Section 55-25-1 et seq. Member counties and municipalities support the district through a one fourth (1/4) mill tax levy on all taxable property in those counties and municipalities comprising the district, for the purpose of providing economic development and multiple recreational opportunities, while improving the quality of life for their citizens.