Most mountain biking trails are remote, secured away in out-of-the-way places that require a long drive across unfriendly back roads. The Coldwater trails’ lead architect, Richard Edwards, said Friday afternoon that the mountain offers two attractive features: fresh riding experiences and proximity to roads, beds and restaurants. Coldwater is surrounded by Anniston, Oxford and Hobson City. The trailhead is only a couple of miles from Interstate 20, which can deliver visitors from as nearby as Atlanta or Birmingham or as far away as Houston.
Edwards’ vision is that a New Yorker boards a southbound Amtrak train at 2 in the afternoon. When he wakes the next morning, he’s in Anniston and a mere 10 blocks away from an amazing network of mountain bike trails. Once here, the rider can pedal from one end of the mountain to the other in about two hours. He or she can pedal over to downtown Anniston for lunch and then return to the trails for more fun. This, said Edwards, makes Anniston unique.
Edwards was part of a ceremony Friday at noon marking the official opening of the trails. The proper name is the Forever Wild Coldwater Mountain Doug Ghee Nature Preserve and Recreation Area. That’s a mouthful, and also highly appropriate. While he was a state senator representing Anniston 20 years ago, Ghee was central in the creation of Forever Wild, a state program that, as its name implies, preserves Alabama’s amazing natural resources. Ghee also deserves credit for ensuring that Coldwater Mountain made it onto the list of Forever Wild preserves.
That it took more than 10 years to go from preservation of the mountain to useful purpose was set aside Friday. The anxious riders assembled for a test-run found it easy to forget the slow-moving past and focus on the here and now.
Friday’s ribbon-cutting, complete with dignitaries from Montgomery and local politicians, marks the completion of the first 10 miles or so of trails. Much more is on the way, Edwards promised.
The impression left by Edwards and Tom Sauret, regional director of the International Mountain Biking Association, a key partner in the project, was that Coldwater was a 4,000-acre sandbox in which an amazing set of trails could be carefully constructed. Riding is fun, they agree, but economic growth mixed with fun is even better.
A partnership of local advocates, business, state government and many others have built it. That they will most definitely come to ride it was the conventional wisdom Friday.