Friday, September 26, 2008
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Photos by T. Presley
Ground broken for mountain bike, hiking tra il
City officials, U.S. Forest Service employees and interested citizens gathered Friday morning for the groundbreaking ceremony for a new mountain bike and hiking trail at Lake Howard. The 14-mile trail begins at the park’s small pavilions and goes back into the Talladega National Forest.
“We’re thrilled to have the city recognize the recreational aspects for the city,” said Kent Evans, ranger for the Talladega National Forest.
He said the trail could be a great tool to promote the city of Sylacauga.
Initial construction of the trail began in August when members of a bicycling club, the Cyclists of Greater Sylacauga, and U. S. Forest Service employees started hand-building a portion of the trail near the watershed dam. Trails Unlimited, the group completing the mechanized construction of the trail, began working last Thursday.
Parks and Recreation Department director Jim Armstrong said approximately 3 miles of the trail have so far been completed.
“They’re doing about a half mile per day,” he said.
He said once workers get past the watershed dam area, the process may move more quickly, but said he can’t be sure because of the weather.
Plans for the project have been in the works for at least a year. Mayor Sam Wright said there used to be activities going on around Lake Howard, and added he wants to do projects that will get more people to the park area.
The city of Sylacauga, along with the members of COGS, agreed to build, operate and maintain the trail to the specifications of the Forest Service.
The city put up $134,000 to finance the project.
Miera Crawford, forest supervisor for USDA Forest Service National Forests in Alabama said the fact that the city was willing to step up and fund the project and get others involved was “extraordinary.”
“I think one of the big messages to get out of all this is that you have so many people (like) city government, volunteers, user groups and federal government coming together for creating a place where people can come out and enjoy the outdoors. It may not sound like a big deal, but it is because you don’t see that very often.”
Crawford said the Forest Service is matching the city’s money with in-kind services by providing people to do the some of the work.
The trail is scheduled to be complete in two weeks.
After it’s finished, COGS members will work to keep up the trail as well as improve it.
“Ultimately, the big job is to keep the trail open and work with the erosion,” said Tim Presley with COGS. “We’ll use (the Forest Service’s) procedures and methods to take care of the trail.”
He said the group would also like to construct some auxiliary trails that lead to views of the lake and other landmarks that could double the trail mileage, but said that could take two years.
In addition to physical manpower, the club is also raising money through events and grants to purchase their own equipment to keep the trail up.
Johnny Oliver, vice president of COGS, said he knows the new trail will attract people from Anniston, Birmingham and other areas across the state.
“Once it gets established, it will be pretty big,” Oliver said.
Joe Richardson, president of Sylacauga Chamber of Commerce, said the trail is like something you might see in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains.
“(The trail) is another asset we’ve got, to show the quality of life here and attract more residents,” Richardson said.
Crawford said the trail will be a “wonderful resource” for the city.
“It’s going to be done, it’s going to be beautiful, and we’re going to get people here,” she said.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Today I worked with the Trails Unlimited crew as we cut the first mile of trail at Lake Howard. Hurricane Gustav rains delayed the arrival of the earth moving equipment until yesterday (Wednesday). After brief introductions they got the Sweco and excavator unloaded. With a few small trees sawed, they got right into trail building. Mitch, Wes, and Jerry were out front cutting and clearing a path. Keith operated the Sweco and Jason, the excavator.
Anybody wanting to help is welcomed. The crew arrives onsite around 8:30am and works all day every day that weather permits. Rain and wet conditions can stop progress so let's hope for dry weather for the next 2 weeks.