- Do other southeastern communities have mountain bike trails?
- I’ve watched the Red Bull Rampage. Isn’t mountain biking only for extreme adventure athletes?
- What are some of the specific user groups you foresee utilizing the trail?
- Tell me more about high-school and collegiate mountain bike racing.
- Will there really be an economic impact?
- Will people really travel from all over to use the trail system?
- How will our trail system fit into regional mountain biking opportunities?
- With regards to mountain biking, will we be competing for riders with other nearby trails (like Chewacla in Auburn)?
- Do we really need that many miles of trail?
- Tell me more about the synergy with Whitewater.
- Tell me more about SORBA/IMBA?
- Is there a local SORBA chapter?
- Don’t you need big mountains (like in Colorado) to mountain bike?
- Describe what constitutes a “mountain bike trail” to me in more detail.
- Where will the parking area be and what facilities will it have?
- Can bikers and hikers/runners really use the same trail?
- If safety isn’t an issue with a multi-use trail, are there other potential problems?
- Do we really need professional construction?
** Note that this document contains numerous hyperlinks to allow the reader to explore further
Do other southeastern communities have mountain bike trails?
Yes, and many of them are highly utilized. A few good examples are the following:
Auburn: Anecdotally, it appears a lot of the growth in mountain biking in Columbus over the past couple of years has come from all of the great things going on in Auburn. The Auburn Tourism Bureau’s website is worth a visit.
Blankets: Blankets is on a small piece of property in a highly urban area (up 575 near Woodstock). However, it is regarded as one of the best trails in the Southeast and is very heavily utilized.
Augusta: The Forks Area Trail System (FATS) has hosted the World Mountain Bike Summit.
Birmingham: Oak Mountain has been a premier trail system for years and hosts a mountain bike race (BUMP N’ Grind) and XTERRA events (off-road running and triathlon) that attract racers from all over the nation.
I’ve watched the Red Bull Rampage. Isn’t mountain biking only for extreme adventure athletes?
Mountain biking is like snow skiing: just as somebody heli-skiing off a cliff isn’t representative of skiing as whole, neither is the extreme riding you may have seen on TV representative of mountain biking as a whole. A large cross-section of the population will utilize the trails.
What are some of the specific user groups you foresee utilizing the trail?
- High school and collegiate cross-country running and mountain bike teams. We expect that local high schools and CSU will form (or expand) mountain bike teams and that cross-country running will experience increased interest.
- Organizations like Trees Columbus and Oxbow Meadows for educational purposes.
- Organizations like Young Life, the Boy Scouts, church youth groups, and the Boys and Girls Club.
- Schools and educational organizations of all types.
Tell me more about high-school and collegiate mountain bike racing.
High school mountain bike racing has exploded in the past few years. Columbus currently has a composite team (a single team made up of riders from various high schools).
Once the trail system is complete, we anticipate a number of high schools will field their own teams. More can be found on a national level and on a local level. Additionally, many colleges have mountain bike race teams, such as Auburn. And, collegiate events have been held at Chewacla.
Will there really be an economic impact?
Absolutely. We have discussed the potential economic impacts with the Visitor’s Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce, and they have reviewed some university-sponsored economic impact studies of other southeastern trail systems. They believe the impacts are real and the benefit to Columbus will be meaningful. The impacts will include the attraction and retention of businesses and employees as well as revenue from individuals visiting the Columbus area.
Economic Impact Study for Knoxville Urban Wilderness (Univ of Tenn)
Will people really travel from all over to use the trail system?
Yes. Auburn’s Visitor’s Bureau website again provides a good example. And, we can anecdotally tell you from parking-lot conversations that people from all over come to Auburn to ride.
More globally, numerous surveys show that trail users, and especially mountain bikers, travel frequently in groups or with their families, stay overnight, and spend meaningful dollars in the communities they have traveled to visit. Importantly, the overwhelming majority of this travel is not predicated on any sort of event or race.
How will our trail system fit into regional mountain biking opportunities?
There is no reason our trail system cannot be the best riding opportunity within at least a two-hour drive. Additionally, because of our slightly milder climate and sandier soil, our trail will often be rideable when north Georgia and Alabama trails are closed because they are too wet.
With regards to mountain biking, will we be competing for riders with other nearby trails (like Chewacla in Auburn)?
The proximity of Auburn (or future trails in areas like Pine Mountain) will increase the number of individuals traveling to our region to ride. A good analogy is the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, and Alabama State Parks is making an effort to construct a network of trails across its parks.
Additionally, the proximity of Standing Boy to Columbus and inclusion of beginner-friendly trails should set us apart from many of the premier riding areas in North Carolina, Tennessee, and northern Georgia and Alabama. While these areas have outstanding trails, many of them either lack trails suitable for beginners/kids or proximity to non-trail activities like whitewater, zip-lining, restaurants, and museums.
Do we really need that many miles of trail?
Yes. Using a golf analogy, think of 8 to 10 miles as 9 holes, 15 to 20 miles as 18 holes, and 25+ miles as 36 holes. If we want to create a more robust local community of hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers, we need 15 to 20 miles. If we want to attract users regionally (and create an even more robust local community), we need at least 25 miles.
Tell me more about the synergy with Whitewater.
First, many mountain bikers also have kayaks and vice versa. We anticipate enthusiasts will come to Columbus and bring both their kayak and mountain bike. Second, we anticipate guided mountain biking will be offered to visitors along with rafting and zip lining.
Here are a few examples:
- The Tsali trail system is one of the oldest “Epic Rides” in the Southeast and is close to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. In recent years, additional trails have been built and the Nantahala Outdoor Center offers an Adventure Package (rafting, zip lining, flatwater rentals, and mountain biking).
- The mountain bike trails at the Ocoee are so close to the whitewater you actually a park at the same place as the paddlers, and the Ocoee Adventure Center offers guided mountain biking.
- At the National Whitewater Center, there are 30 miles of trails that are an important part of the overall experience.
IMBA / SORBA
Tell me more about SORBA/IMBA?
They are both non-profits that are not just interested in constructing trail, but also in sticking around to ensure the trails are highly-utilized and well-managed.
For purposes of this project, SORBA can generally be conceptualized as the southeastern arm of IMBA. IMBA’s worldwide network includes 40,000+ individual members, 200+ IMBA Chapters, 400+ clubs and volunteer bike patrols, 200+ corporate partners, 700+ retail shops, and over 100,000+ subscribers to its messaging. It is a 501(c)(3) organization with a 3-star rating from Charity Navigator.
IMBA has professional designers and builders (“Trail Solutions”) that construct multi-use trails all over the world, are experts in designing and building trails, and have decades of experience all over the world. IMBA has even written some books on the subject and recently collaborated with the Bureau of Land Management on Guidelines for a Quality Trail Experience.
Tom Sauret is the Director and Terry Palmeri is the Assistant Director of SORBA. SORBA is the strongest region within IMBA and a model for what IMBA is trying to implement throughout the rest of the country. Both Tom and Terry are tremendous assets to our efforts, are highly supportive of it, and have been providing invaluable guidance from the very beginning.
Is there a local SORBA chapter?
Chattahoochee Valley Area SORBA (CVA SORBA) has over 70 members and regularly holds workdays, beginner rides, and other events. Check out the website.
TRAILS AND PARKING AREA
Don’t you need big mountains (like in Colorado) to mountain bike?
Not at all. Standing Boy has 300 feet of elevation drop off many of its ridges, which is more than enough to build great trails. The Forks Area Trail System (FATS) in Augusta is highly regarded and has hosted the World Mountain Bike Summit. While we do not have as much acreage as FATS, Trail Solutions believes we have better terrain.
Describe what constitutes a “mountain bike trail” to me in more detail?
Beginner trail usually has a smoother trail surface, less elevation change, and few sharp turns.
Intermediate trail can have a slightly less uniform trail surface, more elevation change, and tighter corners and switchbacks.
Advanced trail often has lots of rocks and roots, lots of elevation change, and very tight switchbacks.
Where will the parking area be and what facilities will it have?
It will be on the northeast corner of the property at the existing road (currently gated). It will be no more than about a quarter mile into property.
It will be a very basic gravel parking lot, It will likely contain portable toilets (with wooden structures built around them for aesthetics), which will be used instead of actual restrooms for a variety of reasons, including cost.
The importance of having sufficient parking is widely recognized and will be a point of emphasis.
PREVENTING USER CONFLICT
Can bikers and hikers/runners really use the same trail?
Yes. Hikers, runners, and mountain bikers successfully share trails around the world, including all over Georgia. Successful multi-use trails utilize a combination of design and management techniques.
Design Technique: A few of techniques used are as follows:
- Sight Lines: In fast sections, trail design ensures users can see far enough down the trail or around the corner to have more than adequate time to slow and respond to each other.
- Grade Reversals: On downhill sections of trail, short 5-15 yard sections of trail that go back uphill help keep speed down.
- Choke Points: Narrowing of the trail (often by routing in between trees or rocks) forces riders to slow down at certain strategic points.
Management Strategies: A few of the strategies include:
- Mileage: Having sufficient mileage of trail so that trails are not too crowded.
- Dedicated Trail: Having some dedicated foot-traffic-only trail and bike-only trail. The bike-only trail will generally be the “downhill” trail designed to allow for higher speeds.
- Education: Educating all user groups.
- Directional Trail Usage: Have foot-traffic and cyclists go in opposite directions, so foot-traffic can always see cyclists approaching. Directions can alternate by day.
If safety isn’t an issue with a multi-use trail, are there other potential problems?
At some point, there is a potential for reduction in user enjoyment if the trail sees extraordinarily heavy usage (e.g., hikers constantly getting passed by bikers and bikers constantly slowing down for hikers). The key here is perspective: if we build 25 miles of trail and have so many folks using it that everyone’s experience is significantly diminished, it would be an outstanding result. The solution would be to build more trails in the Columbus area.
Do we really need professional construction?
Absolutely. Just like any other construction project, it’s best to do it right the first time and cutting corners rarely proves to be more economical over the long-haul.
The following three keys to the design and construction of good trails systems highlight the need for professional design and construction.
- Safety and User Conflict. Discussed previously.
- Sustainability: Maintenance and Environmental Impact. Good design and construction prevents erosion. Erosion is undesirable for not only environmental reasons, but also maintenance reasons.
Below are some of the ways you prevent the sort of erosion pictured above. They are essentially design techniques intended to get water to flow across the trail rather than down the trail. These techniques and the process of constructing sustainable trails in general is technical and should not be underestimated: designers will be using clinometers to measure slope and adhering to various principles that limit the steepness of trail based on the steepness of the side slope, soil type, and other factors.
- Fun for Variety of Users. Just like no one rafted or kayaked Columbus’ stretch of the Chattahoochee until it was given certain characteristics, individuals – especially mountain bikers – will not use poorly designed trails. Additionally, trails that are well-designed and constructed can be enjoyable and challenging for a wide variety of skill levels.
Finally, note the synergy of many trail features: a grade reversal (discussed previously) will (i) reduce speed for safety, (ii) prevent water from running down the trail and eroding it, and (iii) make the trail more fun to ride.