Efforts to create about 25 miles of bicycle trails inside Standing Boy Creek Wildlife Management Area in northwest Columbus are now deep into a fundraising stage that could see physical construction starting this spring.
A group championed by avid mountain bike enthusiast and Columbus resident Blake Melton has raised about $700,000 of its goal of $1,750,000 for the project in the 1,580-acre nature area at 1701 Old River Road.
Melton, an attorney with Synovus, said Wednesday that aside from raising the money for the work, there also is a requirement from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources that environmental surveys be done to check for endangered species and archaeologically sensitive items.
“We’re waiting on those two things, and the trails would potentially need to be tweaked a little bit if they found something,” he said. “Hopefully, that will be tied up by May and we will start building a good chunk of the green (2- to 5-mile) beginner’s trail. That’s the goal that we’re aiming for.”
The wooded property, owned by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, is bordered by Old River Road to the north, the Chattahoochee River to the west, Standing Boy Creek and River Road to the east, and the affluent Green Island Hills neighborhood to the south.
Melton said that Trail Solutions, a contractor group with the design and building arm of the International Mountain Biking Association, already has flagged, or marked, the 25 miles of trail identified for the path that would be used by bicyclists, hikers and runners. Although horses are allowed in the wildlife area, riders could not use the new trail, he said.
The Trail Solutions crews initially walked the hilly, rocky, forested terrain a couple of years ago, then returned recently to do so again and said the potential for the trail was better than they originally anticipated, Melton said. There is the likelihood that it would become a regional draw, but also bring some people from across the U.S.
“I think people will drive from six hours away just to ride this,” he said. “But I think you’ll also see people come from all over the country to do sort of a (week-long) swing. They’ll ride some of the Alabama trails and some of the Georgia trails, and we’ll be very much in the mix to have folks come through here on those sorts of trips.”
Melton, a member of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association, noted the trail project follows discussions among local residents that turning Standing Boy into a full-fledged state park could lead to much more infrastructure and pavement than might be optimal for the property. There was talk of possibly adding a splash pad, an RV park, a wedding pavilion and other elements if it were to convert from a wildlife area to a state park.
“It was always meant to be left in a very natural state and to let it be a place for people to get out in the woods,” he said.
The recreational attraction also would complement the existing amenities in the Columbus area, the group advocating the bike trails says, including the existing Chattahoochee Riverwalk, the city’s rails-to-trails network, and the whitewater course in the downtown area.
Standing Boy Creek itself would appeal to the entire family, Melton said, with portions of the trail built for beginners, such as a short kids loop, and other more challenging areas designed for those with more expertise. Thus, bike trail proponents have set a fairly aggressive goal for completion.
“My hope is that in the fall of 2019 and the winter of 2020 that we build all of it. That’s my goal,” he said. “Now, obviously, a lot of people have to buy into that and give the money. But that’s what I’m aiming for.”
Those using the Standing Boy Creek bicycle trail would not pay an extra fee for doing so, he said. They would simply purchase a hunting or fishing pass from the Department of Natural Resources giving them access to the wildlife management area. There are several tiers, but an annual fishing license for those 16 years and older costs $15 for residents and $50 for nonresidents.