The 11-mile trail opened last spring and the expansion will mark the first time it’s been lengthened, but the additional miles are only a small portion of the roughly 50-mile expansion planned for the trail. The fall expansion will extend an existing one-mile easier portion on the trail, said Richard Edwards, a trail specialist for the International Mountain Biking Association.
“They cater to beginners or novices,” Edwards said of the easier parts of the Coldwater Mountain Trail. “We want to create an opportunity for anybody where it’s easy to go out.”
Edwards said developers have been conducting preliminary work on the trail expansion this week and next week will begin light trail construction. The next week, developers will bring in machinery to clear a trail path.
“I’m glad they’re going to extend the short loop,” said Scott Bowie, a mountain biker who visited the trail on his lunch break Thursday. “It’ll be something I can come out here and ride real fast and not extend my lunch break too much.”
Edwards said developing the easier portion of the trail helps engage people like Bowie. Bowie, an Odenville resident who works locally, has been cycling for about two decades but said the easier portion of trail has been particularly beneficial for him. Recovering from foot surgery, he’s been using the less-difficult portion of the trail to ease back into the sport while he recovers.
According to a Jacksonville State University study, the trail will provide a $1.2 million boost to the local economy. But in order for the trail’s economic impact to be optimal, local residents and enthusiasts, not just visitors, have to take an interest in the project, Edwards said.
“Coldwater is a pretty amazing project, and it’s really critical that we develop more of a local trails community,” Edwards said.
Members of organizations such as the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association have garnered the local support developers have needed so far, he said.
“This project has been a long time in the development process. It would have died on the vine without those local advocates,” Edwards said.
That enthusiasm can be fostered and broadened, he said, by introducing more people to the trail through the beginner loops. Once complete, an easier portion of trail will be at every access point on the trail, Edwards said.
“That’s to provide neighborhood opportunities,” Edwards said.
The section that’s considered easier to travel is expected to comprise about 30 percent of the trail once the project is complete.
Ten of the existing 11 miles of trail are a little more challenging. So too will be the majority of the trail. Once complete, the 60 miles of planned trail on the mountain will be of varying levels of difficulty.
The challenging portion of the track gives the trail a regional appeal, drawing cyclists from other areas where beginner-level trails have been established.
Staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.