Well, that was entertaining.
“That” was the public meeting last week about the Standing Boy Creek Wildlife Management Area off old River Road in Columbus, currently used primarily for hunting, hiking, running, birdwatching, fishing, all that outdoorsy stuff.
The 1,580 acres of mostly undeveloped land on Lake Oliver are managed by the Department of Natural Resources, which in collaboration with a national mountain biking association is going to build 25 miles of bike trails there. That’s why the DNR held a public meeting – to tell everyone it’s going to do that.
Some of us already realized DNR was going to do that, once we heard a $1.5 million account to fund the project was established at the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley back in March, but the meeting announcement still said the trails were “proposed.”
So other people took “proposed” literally, such as some Standing Boy neighbors who came to the meeting because they did not want additional development drawing more traffic down their driveways at night.
Also, the mountain bikers turned out in force, of course, many of them in bike clothes, and with their kids in bike-team uniforms, so the bike team could line up in front of the 100 or so people at the meeting, who then migh,t for gosh sakes, Think of The Children.
This was OK, but not entirely necessary, because the DNR already had decided to build the trails. The bicyclists could have taken those kids out for pizza, because it’s not like the DNR guys were going to get to the meeting at the library and say, “WHAT? The BIKE TEAM’S not here? Well, that’s it! We can’t go through with this now!”
The bicyclists backing the trails noted that they are conscientious stewards of the land who clean up trash and watch for vandals: “We’re probably the best group to have in there on a daily basis or a weekly basis,” one said.
This aura of model citizenship seemed to annoy a couple of the neighbors even more, because they apparently don’t sit with shotguns on their porches at night worried bicyclists in reflective clothing are going to sneak up their driveways.
“It’s the folks that come in that ain’t part of your organization, all right?” one said.
This went on so long that if we did irony here, I would have stood up just to be contrary and said, “NO! No, bicyclists are NOT nice people! They’re a GANG! They control turf! They make signs! And they wear COLORS! And they make their kids wear colors, too! Kids, get back up here and show your colors!”
A few other lines of inquiry were opened, such as: If a hunting dog chasing game at 30 mph crosses in front of a mountain biker who’s going so fast he already has a fund at the Community Foundation, can he brake in time, and if not, what happens if he runs in front of the bicycle?
And: If the big pond at Standing Boy is reserved only for organized children’s fishing, can I go fish there if I organize some children?
Finally DNR Deputy Commissioner Terry West announced (spoiler alert) that the department is going to build the trails: “We are going through with the plan.”
The construction aided by the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association is expected to start in June, after the state does its environmental and archaeological surveys.
The question I asked in an email afterward is: What if the bicycle association later proposes adding more amenities? Will the public be notified, and asked for comment?
“We really want to leave this site as low impact as possible now that it’s a WMA,” wrote a DNR spokesman. “We have no plans or desire to expand future development beyond what is being proposed with the mountain bike trails (and the gravel lot/basic pit latrine that’d come with it).”
The DNR will accept more public comment through 4:30 p.m. Aug. 31.
Anyone interested can email firstname.lastname@example.org or mail a letter to the Georgia DNR, Wildlife Resources Division, Game Management Section; Attention: Don McGowan, at 2067 U.S. Highway 278 S.E.; Social Circle, Ga., 30025.