A two-day presentation on the effect the Coldwater Mountain bicycle trails could have on the region kicked off Friday with an information session at the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce. Jake Carsten and Jenny Abraham of the Subaru International Mountain Bicycling Association Trail Care Crew spoke to a group of bicycle enthusiasts, business leaders and government officials about the economic and health benefits the trails could bring to Anniston, drawing on statistics taken from similar projects in other parts of the country.
In their presentation, “Better Living Through Trails,” Carsten and Abraham highlighted the benefits of well–constructed and maintained trails in turning the area into a country-wide tourist destination, comparing the Coldwater trails to a Six Flags theme park as opposed to a local carnival.
“Bikers will travel across the country for a 50- or 60-mile trail system if it’s designed and built to professional standards,” Carsten said.
Carsten said “destination mountain bikers” often take several weeks off a year to visit trails similar to those planned for Coldwater Mountain, and will spend between $39 and $133 per day in local economies.
“Some of these places gain $10.3 million over a single season,” he said.
Carsten and Abraham reiterated the need to market the trails to several different demographics in order to benefit from involvement by the entire community.
“They assume it’s a bunch of 20-year-olds jumping off a cliff,” Carsten said about misconceptions some have about the typical mountain biker. “That’s not the case. It’s a really broad mix of professional and work-force-based crowd.”
Mike Poe of the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association said the trail has already been constructed for a length of five miles; the goal is to build 12 miles by the end of April. After stalling for more than a decade following its initial proposal in 2000, the entire project is likely to require another four years before it’s finished.
“In May this will be 12 years now we’ve been working towards this,” Poe said.
A second session on building and maintaining trails will begin today at 9 a.m. at the Anniston City Meeting Center, followed by building exercises on the trail at 1 p.m. The event is free to attend and lunch will be provided.