Adding a new entertainment spot for residents and visitors to take part in normally brings a boost for local tourism and as the county begins constructing a new mountain bike trail, they’re hoping to see the effects reach further for years to come.
With the help of a NC Parks-Recreational Trails grant, Onslow County has began constructing a new mountain bike park called Big Branch Bike Park, located within the existing Burton Park. The park will also feature a cross-country running section and will cost $450,000 to build.
Because of where the land sits, county officials explained it was not practical to build structures of any kind, however with the roaming hills and wetlands from Big Branch Creek, a mountain bike trail was the best idea.
Assistant County Manager Ben Warren along with consultants from local bike clubs have worked on the idea for two years. After seeing research which showed mountain biking was the number three outdoor activity in 2019, grant writing began as Onslow County Parks and Recreation were awarded the RTP Grant for just under $250,000 in December.
The remainder of the funds came from county tourism dollars, according to a news release. Those funds are used to promote tourism in Onslow.
Currently there are two bike trails in Onslow, one on base at Camp Lejeune and the other is maintained by the City of Jacksonville at Jacksonville Commons. With a new bypass extension around the commons to Ramsey Road expected to take out the bike trail over the next several years, Big Branch Park will eventually be the only public accessible bike trail in the county.
“The Outdoor Industry Association did a nationwide survey which indicated mountain biking was one of the top 3 outdoor activities for participants six years or older. We had some local interest who talked to county staff about constructing a trail as well,” Warren said. “After that, we began looking at county owned properties to help minimize the cost of the trail.”
Community Trail Design LLC from Charlotte are the lead builders for the trail and are expected to begin phase 1 of construction in early March. The trail could be completed before July at the latest. According to their website, the company described the area as a “extremely unique terrain with just the right amount of topo and soil structure to develop a true bench cut style of trail.”
Warren and Community Trail Design agree the location of the trail will serve tourism well with it being just a stone’s throw away from local beaches and military bases. Warmer months are expected to be big hitters for the trail but it will also be used year around in some capacity, something Warren says the county is preparing for once the bike trail is completed.
“There is a two prong approach we looked at, one was a lot of folks that come down to the beach are also avid mountain bikers. It is an added attraction to hit a mountain bike course and go to the beach in the same day,” Warren added. “Having this will hopefully incline folks to visit our beaches and out mountain bike trails.”
The second approach was based around cross-country competitions with Onslow County Schools as well as The North Carolina Interscholastic Cycling League (NCICL), which both would draw in hundreds, possibly thousands of people for each event, sometimes all weekend long.
“We are hoping to bring the race series with NCICL back to Onslow after seeing how much the series has grown, last year’s races had between 800 and 1,000 rides and when you factor in friends, family that also go to the events, we are talking about several thousand people to bring in a lot of out of town folks into the community.
Local bike enthusiasts Down East Cyclists have also been an intricate part with promoting and working on the new trail. Vice President Steve Clark explained the club is excited the new park has broke ground.
“It gives others in the area access to an activity that promotes a healthy lifestyle and improves fitness along with a multitude of other health benefits. With the addition of Big Branch Bike Park, we are welcoming riders from outside the area to enjoy the year-round beautiful weather of Onslow County in a safe, controlled environment. We believe that the park will increase participation in the sport locally and give others from outside the area a reason to visit Onslow County,” Clark added.
The new facility will include initially a 1.8 mile flow trail and a 4.8 mile intermediate trail, along with the cross-country trail to hopefully be used for high school competitions.
Reporter Trevor Dunnell can be reached by email at email@example.com. Please consider supporting local journalism by signing up for a digital subscription for as little as $1 a month. JDNews.com.subscribenow