The Ellijay Mountain Bike Association (EMBA) attended the Gilmer County Commissioner’s May meeting to officially request a letter of support for adding and extending trails at Carter’s Lake.
According to their proposal, as a part of the Southern Off-Road Biking Association (SORBA) and the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) this project is looking to construct multi-use trails at the sight which will not only support mountain bikers, but hikers, dog walkers, hunters, runners, and bird watchers as well.
While still very early in the planning process, those involved have already completed a preliminary feasibility study along with Preston York of FlowMotion Trailbuilders, a professional trail builder. Terry Palmieri of EMBA spoke with the Commissioners saying that while Gilmer has been claimed as the Mountain Bike Capital of Georgia, we still lack beginner to intermediate trails for families and groups who may want to mountain bike but can’t quite make the miles of advanced and expert tracks we currently have. Part of the conceptual plan they currently have would add over 15 miles of additional trails that would range in difficulty for those needs.
Part of the addition would also add other types of trails such as what is called a flow trail. York described this type of trail as wider and easier than average mountain trails. Providing a minimal amount of pedaling and braking, this type of trail allows riders to “surf” the trail as you can coast through large portions of the trails. York says flow trails has more “rollers” in the trail to provide varying G-forces to the riders body as well as sloped turns that bikers will take with almost no need for braking or slowing.
There was opposition present at both the Commissioner’s Work Session and Regular Meeting. However, in the work session when the EMBA and FlowMotion representatives said their plan abandoned an idea to add a connector between the Ridgeway and Woodring Branch areas the lawyer representing those in opposition stated “without the connector trail being there, my clients really don’t have a particular issue.” The reasons they gave for abandoning the connector included proximity to homeowners, needed construction for bridges, and a great stress to emergency services attempting to reach the area.
These additions will not only add more trails to attract more bikers through the County’s efforts, but Palmieri also suggested that IMBA is changing their requirements for a special title, “Ride Center Designation.” This designation would have the international organization advertise Gilmer County as one of its best locations for biking. She also stated in the regular meeting that Gilmer could be the only place in Georgia to get this title under the new requirements she had seen.
Mike Palmieri also spoke at both meetings. Speaking of the biking community, Mike stated that through EMBA’s surveys over the years, they have discover that mountain bikers have invested $911,257.68 into this county over 30 years. Through volunteers and work hours donated, locals have upheld this industry, but now they are requesting the county’s support of the project so they can use it for grant writing and other goals they are attempting to achieve. Mike attended the Commissioner’s regular meeting in his fireman’s Class A Uniform. He stated wore the uniform to recognize the sacrifice of locals in the form of volunteer service and countless hours building and upkeep for the trail systems.
Considering the withdrawal of the homeowners opposition, the Commissioners did approve their letter of support. This will allow those involved to take their support and add it to grant requests and applications for the trails. Providing just a letter of support, the County has not committed to any amount of financial support at this time.
The path now, according to Palmieri, will have EMBA turn their conceptual plan over to the Corps of Engineers who will go through their own process to inspect the areas and the plans before any construction can begin. According to Corps of Engineers representative and Operations Manager for Carter’s Lake, Miriam Fleming, who attended the Commissioners regular meeting, since they are just getting the plan, this process could take around two years.