By ED HOWELL
Daily Mountain Eagle
A group is proposing the Jasper City Council help them establish a mountain bike park in Jasper, asking the city for some land to locate one.
At the Dec. 13 work session of the council, Mayor David O’Mary said he had been involved in three meetings on the proposal. “It would be a great add to the city,” he said, agreeing with the proposal.
The group goes to several mountain bike parks, he said. O’Mary suggested the identify one they like and to get details such as costs for the city.
“There was some talk of using the 225 acres at the intersection of Charles Bishop and Industrial. Personally, I don’t think that’s the highest and best use of that property,” he said. “I do know steep train is a requirement to do a track of this nature. I do think there is some property we could use.”
O’Mary said it was a great idea, but said he still didn’t know what the cost would be or what the next step would be. “But a mountain bike course in Jasper certainly has my endorsement,” he said.
Mason Boren, along with his wife Courtney and John Williams, approached the council about the idea. Borden said the group had been working with Reese Peters and the Walker Area Community Foundation to get some mountain bike trails in Jasper.
A packet given to council members indicated the Health Action Partnership of Walker County and Jasper Main Street are also involved in the effort.
Three years ago, there was discussion of locating them at Walker County Lake, but that “fell through,” he said, apparently due to it being state-owned property. At the same time, Boren said he was “not overly excited” about the location, adding it would be muddy and swampy, and not prone to having hills.
The amount of land that could be used ranges from three acres to 400 acres, he said, pointing to a handout with examples. However, he said the 30-acre example was his least favorite. He indicated 30 to 50 would be adequate to start with.
O’Mary suggested getting Parks Director Peter Cosmiano and Public Works Director and City Engineer Joe Matthews together to identify people to give guidance and then help find locations. Then the city could come up with estimated costs.
“I good bit of the work can be done under our umbrella, which will minimize the costs,” he said.
O’Mary offered to have a leadership role to bring people together to investigate the possibility, which seemed satisfactory to the council. He feels that a desirable site can be found in the 225 acres of industrial park to cut down land costs. Councilwoman Jennifer Williams Smith said that would also locate it close to U.S. Interstate 22 and would tie in closely with Walker County Lake.
Boren said the first phase of a park would be easy, family-friendly in nature and then evolve from there. While Williams said he has been to challenging mountain bike parks, some of them don’t have anything suitable to also take his wife and daughter to ride a two-mile loop while he rides technically steep trails.
Williams said, “We’re looking for something we can use that can bring other folks here.” He said he and Boren signed up to be in a race the following weekend that was bringing in hundreds of people. “We could have something like that here as part of that ride series,” he said.
The packet quoted peopleforbikes.org as saying that Alabama generates $90 million in annual spending on road biking and $214 million in annual spending for mountain biking. A “local survey” quoted said almost 70 percent would travel three or more hours to ride and almost 80 percent will stay overnight at least once a year, spending anywhere from $50 to $200 on fuel, food and lodging.
It said a variety of trails for family riders of different skill levels was needed, as well as having access to places of interest for those in the family not interested in biking, and placings for dining and drinks.
A $4 million economic impact on the local economy was cited for the Coldwater Mountain trails in Anniston, with 4,000 acres, 25 miles of trails and a Forever Wild Land Trust tract. The packet also pointed to four municipal mountain bike parks and trails: Sylaward Mountain Bike Trails in Sylacauga (18 miles of trails); Gardendale Urban Trail System (3 miles of trails on three to four acres); Blue Creek Mountain Bike Park in Hoover (73 acres, 5 miles of trails); and Dothan Forever Wild Trails (400 acres, 15 miles of trails).
The packet said the first phase of a Jasper mountain trail park would “start with establishing beginner trails and family loop, establish signage and develop trailhead and parking area. The second phase would “expand (the) trail system to include more intermediate and advanced trails, add wooden and rock features, (and) host NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) competitions to attract regional travelers.”
An overhead map laid out in the packet called for industrial park land near I-22 to be used for youth, intermediate and advanced skills trails.