It’s been awhile, and part of that is because we have tried to have deference to the pandemic – both to those nonprofits that are providing economic assistance and health-care services directly related to the pandemic as well as those with fixed operating costs that are fighting to stay afloat. However, it’s long past time for an update and we are at a point where we have to reassert ourselves in the nonprofit space by fundraising to address insufficient parking and the amount of traffic on the green trails (both of which are awesome problems to have).
State Parks and Parking Pass – The property is back being managed by State Parks. It was a winding road to get here, but it has already proven to be the right move as State Parks is very comfortable managing trails and working with them has been fantastic. If you are so inclined, it would be great if you emailed Matt Bruner at email@example.com. Pretty sure those folks don’t get enough “thank you’s” for everything they put up with.
New signage and a pay station for daily use is coming, but please go ahead and buy a State Parks pass when your Lands Pass expires.
Also, hunting and fishing licenses as well as Lands Passes will continue to be honored until June 31, 2021. Please leave them (or a copy of them) on the dash of your vehicle.
Happily, State Parks taking back over does not alter the Trail System Master Plan. And, it does not mean there are any plans to build any of the facilities that were part of the State Parks Master Plan from a few years ago.
Trail Use – Even with limited parking and virtually no promotion, the trails are seeing an encouraging amount of use. We have counters on Primary Goods, The Bug, and Lonely Hunter. For example, on Sunday, September 20th, we had 153 hits on Primary Goods, 31 hits on The Bug, and 52 hits on Lonely Hunter. We are also seeing a steady amount of traffic during the week, and on many weekdays are getting close to half of the users we see on a weekend day.
That’s pretty good, but we’ll do a whole, whole lot better once we have sufficient parking so that we can promote the trails via social media and other outlets and the pandemic subsides so we can hold beginner clinics and similar events.
Trail Maintenance – Because the corridors are freshly cut, we were able to make it through the spring and summer on the backs of Keith Wills and few other dedicated volunteers. However, as the weather cools down and the ground gets more moisture in it, we are going to have to start having trail workdays again. We will do everything we can to make them safe, and we benefit greatly from the fact we’ll be outdoors. Please keep an eye on Instagram and Facebook for more information, and don’t count on others to show up and do the work. We need everyone’s help.
Parking – With lots of help from Hughston Homes, we have a quote to construct about 70 more spaces at a cost of $65,000. This new parking area is part of a Trailhead Master Plan (I’ll try to get it up on the website soon) and will be located between the existing parking area and Old River Road, just north of the overgrown, gated road that intersects the road to the parking area from the west.
We have approval from State Parks pending the normal environmental surveys, which unfortunately cannot take place until March because we need to wait for trillium to bloom. We have the environmental survey scheduled, and, pending successful fundraising, will start construction as soon as possible after the survey is completed.
Until then, please center on the wheel stops and remember that the road on the western side of the property is open during hunting season, which runs through February. There are a number of spots to park along that road.
The Trailhead Master Plan has changing stalls, picnic tables, etc. and we’ll get there eventually. But for right now, the emphasis will continue to be on trails and parking.
Road to Parking Area – It appears we are going to be able to get the road widened by six feet on the east side so we have a twenty-foot roadbed, which will hopefully be wide enough to let oncoming traffic by with ease but not so wide that it encourages people to drive too fast.
At the same time this happens (likely sometime in the Summer of 2021), it also appears we are going to be able to get a water pump (the kind they have at the ranges on Fort Benning) in the parking area and at a spot on the southern side of the property on Lonely Hunter.
Fingers crossed and I’ll hopefully be able to share more on this soon.
Gate – In the next few weeks we should get an automated gate installed at Old River Road. Appreciation goes to ACOM for this. The gate will open and close automatically (e.g., 5:00 AM and 9:00 PM). Additionally, we will be able to remotely open and close the gate so that we can close the trails when they become too wet. While this will be helpful as the trails attract more and more new users, we can see from the trail counters that compliance with trail closures by current users is awesome. Thank you!
Trail Construction – Currently under construction are segments 8, 9, and 12. This will turn Lonely Hunter into a full blue loop and help reduce the number of users on the green trails. These segments will be complete by Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, there is not a feasible way to open them incrementally like we did with Lonely Hunter. Please exercise discipline and stay off until they are complete.
In the late winter or early spring, the last little bit of segment 9 and segment 18 will be constructed. Segment 18 is meant to be the flagship gravity-oriented bike trail. Construction was pushed back until early next year so we could open that trail, which will have more sculpted dirt features than multi-use trails, into the drier summer and fall months.
After construction of these trails, our current funds will be depleted to what we need for normal operating expenses.
Fund-Raising Campaign – We will soon be launching a $200,000 fundraising campaign. In addition to the parking area, this sum will allow for the construction of some additional trail. The environmental surveys for these trails will be conducted in conjunction with the survey for the parking area.
First, we are going to turn Primary Goods into a loop, which will then allow us to run Primary Goods and Bimini directionally like Lonely Hunter. This will provide a better, less-congested user experience for everyone.
Second, we will better connect Bimini. Large portions of segment 4 suffered substantial tornado damage. We are not 100% sure how we are going to handle this yet, but we’ll get more of the planned-for mileage and have more single track and less gravel road.
Please be on the lookout for more information. To get this done in the current environment, we are going to have to have grass-roots fundraising efforts and donations.
Final Thoughts – It has been really heartening, especially with the current state of the world, to see how thankful and respectful people have been of the trails and property as a whole. Compliance with trails closures is outstanding, very little trash is showing up in the parking area, I’m not hearing lots of reports of people acting like jerks on the trails, etc. Thank you!
Making sure that continues is crucial, as I’m continuing to pursue some additional possibilities as far as management of the trail system, revenue, and similar matters. I’ll share more as soon it’s productive to do so.
Thanks for everyone’s support!