Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Members of the Friends of White Oak Mountain are celebrating the completion of nearly 11 miles of new trails in Collegedale that are now accessible for walkers, trail runners and mountain bikers.
“The initial plan was to build 3 miles of new trails and rehabilitate 4 miles of the existing trails,” said Jim “JJ” Johnson, founder of Friends of WOM.
Originally, Southern Adventist University had eight to 10 miles of trails that were open for use by biology classes and the public. Johnson felt many of them were too steep, created too much mud when it rained and suffered from erosion problems.
“Some of those trails we will rehab by planting trees to stop the erosion, but some of the trails can’t be fixed,” he said.
Johnson was inspired to build new trails by a similar project he completed with his mountain biking association in Kentucky. When he moved to Collegedale this summer, he met mountain bike enthusiasts who were excited by the idea of creating a new trail system. They worked with permission from SAU to create a plan. Johnson said he wanted to build trails by hand to save money, but at the first organizational meeting a club member suggested hiring a professional trail contractor instead.
“Normally, with a contractor it’s about $25,000 per mile and we would have needed about $75,000,” said Johnson, who then began looking for more affordable options. “[Southern Off Road Bicycle Association] just built the Enterprise trails and they have a model where they rent the equipment and hire an operator. We decided to adopt their model.”
Johnson and his club members raised enough funds to increase the three miles of trails in their plans to five and to work with trail machine operator Andy Sowell. However, SORBA approached Friends of WOM and offered the use of a trail dozer, which allowed the group to build additional miles at a quarter of the price the project would have cost.
“In the end, we raised $33,000 and built almost 11 miles of new trails and utilized about two miles of old trail,” Johnson said. “That 10-plus miles of trail in normal circumstances would have cost $250,000, but with a lot of volunteer help, a lot of trail design done by volunteers and support from organizations like SORBA, we did it for $33,000.”
Johnson said the new trail system is designed to be easily maintainable. A compactor machine hardened the top 6 inches of dirt so the trail will not be muddy when it rains. Each path is also built to allow rain water to flow naturally, reducing the amount of erosion and silt runoff. After 12 weeks of work, the main trail building finished just last week.
“It’s important to recognize that right now there are places where it doesn’t look natural,” said Johnson, who will spend the rest of the summer with volunteers completing smaller tasks on the trails. “It looks like a little construction site, but this fall when leaves come down it’ll get covered up.”