Mountain bike trail in works at state park

First Posted: 2/11/2009

PILOT MOUNTAIN The state park at Pilot Mountain is popular for its scenic views, camping and other attractions; mountain biking could be headed to the list.
A process is under way to develop a multi-use mountain bike and hiking trail there, according to Matt Windsor, park superintendent.
Were still kind of in the planning stages, said Windsor, who added this week that there are several items that must be resolved before the trail becomes a reality. One of those is ensuring that it will not be damaging to the natural environment through erosion or destruction of wildlife habitats.
The basic route for the trail has been mapped out, said Windsor. Weve already had a regional trail specialist walk it with us, he said, pointing out that the specialist lent his support contingent on a few minor changes.
Weve got a few more route adjustments we would have to make before the facility can be opened to the public, the park official added.
Another stage will involve having a wildlife biologist examine the path to make sure that it will not be harmful to the habitats of the numerous animal and plant species that occupy the park.
Given the steps still to be completed for the trail, the park superintendent said, I would doubt it would be available this spring or summer. No target opening date has been specified.
But one thing is for certain at this point: the facility will be a welcome addition to those who enjoy the increasingly popular sport of mountain biking, which combines the thrill of cycling with the serenity of a walk in the woods.
In the case of Pilot Mountain State Park, supporters think the scenic knob provides a fitting backdrop for the addition planned there. It would supplement other facilities already in the area, including mountain bike trails at Westwood Park in Mount Airy and one at Fisher River Park near Dobson.
We know there is already a demand for it, Windsor said, pointing to the heavy use of other biking trails in the state parks system, especially one at Lake Norman State Park.
The superintendent said a flood of support has accompanied the plans for the local park trail, as word has reached biking clubs in the area. Ive had about 180 emails so far, Windsor said Tuesday. So I think theres a lot of support for it.
Windsor said that another factor that helped stimulate the plans for mountain biking at the state facility was the receiving of numerous requests from bikers to use the parks bridle trails since he became superintendent in February 2008. But the official said he has been hesitant to allow that, citing incompatibilities between horses and bicycles.
Along with the recreational use theyre eagerly anticipating, the enthusiasm among biker groups could be vital to the trail project given the maintenance and other tasks to be involved. Thats particularly the case with the state government mired in a budget crunch that makes such projects low on the priority list for funding.
This is a volunteer-driven effort, Windsor said.

Proposed Route
Officials are striving to provide a trail that will be easy for parents and children to negotiate, but one also somewhat challenging to experienced mountain bikers.
The route could be about 11 to 12 miles long when completed. Windsor explained that various changes will lengthen the route as it now exists due to the need to adjust its course along the way to allow for drainage. A grade of 10 percent or less must be in place for the entire distance, to allow sufficient drainage and prevent water from ponding in spots and causing erosion.
Switchbacks and zigs and zags will have to be in place along the course to meet that requirement, the superintendent said. Keeping the mountain bike pathway dry is a key in ensuring that the topography will not be disturbed, said Windsor, who added that very little impact will result under that scenario.
The starting point for the trail will be in a centrally located area around the main section of the park near its offices, and it would loop around the perimeter of the mountain from there.
In addition to finalizing the route to meet the various requirements, other plans must be put into place to make sure the trail does not strain existing personnel and facility resources. Every weekend the parking lots are full, and Im sure this would not do anything to change that, Windsor said.
A plan also is needed to deal with emergencies, such as a bike rider getting injured.
The superintendent hopes that as the facility develops, agreements can be reached with biking organizations on a maintenance schedule.
So a lot of work will go into it, he said.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.

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