Bikers can rejoice for better bridges on the way thanks to a $100,000 Georgia Department of Natural Resources grant awarded to the Chicopee Woods Area Park Commission.
The funding will go toward replacing bridges in the mountain bike trail system in the Walnut Creek area north of Interstate 985 and a Walnut Creek tributary.
“We’re really grateful, of course, for this, because those trails have absolutely no support other than grants and direct donations,” said Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association Executive Director Tom Sauret.
The grant for Chicopee Woods is one of 27 grants awarded totalling $2.5 million to trail projects across Georgia. Less than a third of applications received grant funding, which requires matching funds of at least 20 percent by the recipient.
The plan calls for rerouting the trail, using one new bridge instead of the two older bridges, and eliminating two-way traffic to and from the mountain biking parking area.
Sauret, the grant proposal’s author, said it may only add half a mile to the existing trail.
“It’s not really a net increase but it’s an improvement to the existing, aging infrastructure,” he said.
The bridges were put in by volunteers more than a decade ago, Sauret said. Both bridges are wooden — one also uses steel — and the new bridges will use a composite material expected to last 40 to 50 years.
“It will also reroute the trail in a more sustainable fashion,” Sauret said. “The approaches to the two old bridges are at a steep slope, not the best situation for erosion and sedimentation.”
The construction of the bridges is expected to take approximately two years, Sauret said. The area still has four or five more in the area that would possibly need replacements in future grant proposals.
“None of them are as old as these two,” Sauret said. “They may be the two oldest bridges ... They’re also the ones that right now, I would argue, have the most negative impact because of the approaches to them.”