6-year-old rider Beau Tate at the Talking Rock Nature Preserve trails now open to the public. His father, Will Tate, is president of the local friends of the trails and said the trails are well-suited for younger and beginning riders.
After five years of planning and work, the private land trust that owns the property announced this week that the mountain bike trails at the Talking Rock Nature Preserve are open to the public and free to ride or hike.
Bill Jones of Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land (STPAL), speaking at the Chamber of Commerce meeting Tuesday said they were expecting the last loads of gravel to be delivered for the parking lot that day at the center of the 211-acre tract on the west side of Highway 515 at the Pickens/Gilmer line.
Five of the planned 10 miles of trail are ready and work continues on the remainder at this time. The park can be accessed from Old Whitestone Road or Carnes Mill Road coming from Highway 515 across from Biguns Barbeque.
The trails have been test-riden for several weeks and reviews are positive but the official opening has waited until the parking area was complete and directional signage installed.
Jones described the trails as three miles on one loop of rolling, beginner-friendly, riding. There are few other intro-level trails in north Georgia and this one is expected to be very popular.
Work continues on the other loop which he described as slightly more intermediate.
Jones said the intro loop (on the west side of the park) was professionally designed for people learning to mountain bike with few steep uphills or descents. The intermediate loop contains more elevation changes, but was also designed with safety in mind.
He encouraged the public to come out and ride or hike. He asked hikers to go opposite the direction of travel posted on the signs for bikers. He said this is safer as the trails have excellent lines of sight so bikers and walkers should be able to see each other approaching. The common courtesy is for hikers to step off the trail to let cyclists (who are expected to slow down) pass.
Future trail plans will include more advanced riding. In addition to the trails, there are plans for a possible disc-golf course, and a very steep adventure trail for running and other outdoor uses that would be closed to biking.
Jones said it is the mission of STPAL to ensure that the property be permanently protected and always be open to the public for either free or low-cost use. The only user fees they envision would be for special events, such as races or clinics.
STPAL acquired the property after plans to make it into a retirement/assisted living community were shelved in the real estate downturn several years ago.
At the Chamber meeting, Will Tate, a Jasper attorney and president of the Friends of the Park group, said he had taken his six-year-old son riding there and the trail is truly family friendly. He said they will be hosting Friends events or meetings to help support the park’s growth.
Chamber President and County Economic Developer Gerry Nechvatal said the trail should “provide an excellent return to local businesses” by attracting tourism.
There are plans in the works to coordinate with other trails in counties to the north and south and create a mountain-bike destination which will draw people from around the region looking to ride several trails on a vacation, benefitting local lodging and dining.