An international mountain biking organization has been given the go-ahead by the Hall County Board of Commissioners to begin designing a trail for the Cherokee Bluffs Park in Flowery Branch.
The commission approved the project Thursday, and the International Mountain Bicycling Association has agreed to design the trail.
“IMBA really is the premiere worldwide mountain biking organization,” said Tom Souret, director of the Southeast region for IMBA. “This will be the first trail system in Hall County that IMBA has designed from scratch, maybe the first in Georgia.
“It really is exciting.”
The approved plan allows IMBA to conceptualize the trail system, flag the pathway and train county workers to properly construct mountain biking trails. The cost of the project will be $16,729, of which $5,000 will be paid for by IMBA with the remaining amount provided by the county through the special purpose local options sales tax and impact fees.
The trail will wind through 200 acres that is split between the park and a nearby quarry, which the county obtained an easement for, Souret said.
“One of the things we’re really excited about is that this trail would include some riding on exposed rock surfaces, which is unusual for trails in Georgia,” he said, “and it is not going to be backcountry riding in the wilderness either.
“It’s going to be an urban, neighborhood interface.”
As part of the project, an IMBA trail specialist will travel to Gainesville to train three park employees on how to design and construct sustainable mountain bike trails. The employees will undergo five days of classroom and hands-on training as part of the organization’s Trail Building School.
The IMBA has worked with the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association and local mountain biking clubs to promote the sport since the early 1990s, Souret said, though there has not been any active trail building in the past decade.
Souret said he believes this project will benefit the community and provide an outlet for area youth.
“Mountain biking is one the most rapidly growing outdoor recreations in the country, and it is particularly compelling for young people,” he said. “We know based on surveys that the No. 1 one activity for kids under 12 is cycling, and this will give the local kids another place they can do that.”
Hall County first purchased the land the park is on in 2006, and consultants were given the go-ahead to begin infrastructure design in October. Aside from the bike trail, expected facilities include walking trails and an outdoor performing space. An area tentatively being called Friendship Village may also be developed.