Possible mountain bike park in future for Sugar Hollow site
Published 9:08 am Thursday, February 18, 2016
What do you see when you survey 102 acres of steep, wooded hills and flat open spaces accessible by old logging roads? Elizabethton and Carter County Parks and Recreation officials envision a mountain bike park along with various other recreational features.
“Carter County has some of the best undeveloped mountain bike potential of any county I can think of,” said Ken Gouge, Chair of the Carter County P&R Board. “We think that along with the Hampton Watershed Mountain Bike Trails, if we developed Sugar Hollow —which we are just beginning to think about — that we could turn Carter County into a mountain biking destination that would be good for residents in more than one way, which we think will certainly attract tourism.”
The project is in the research phase, said Elizabethton P&R Director Mike Mains, adding the roads into the facility are narrow and would not currently be conducive to frequent traffic. Meetings have taken place between city and county P&R representatives and city engineers to analyze infrastructural requirements. The primary focus at current is determining needs, funding and goals for the city-owned site.
The site is located adjacent to the old Sugar Hollow landfill and features varied terrain, which Mains said is fantastic for a number of uses.
“It seems to be tailor-made for a mountain bike park,” said Gouge. “There’s a relatively flat area at the base with a series of steep hills that comprise most of the property.”
A few years ago, the area was logged, and the logging roads are still in fairly decent shape, Gouge said. “A lot of the work has already been done for us,” he added.
According to Gouge, P&R officials in both the city and county have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Southern Off-Road Bike Association (SORBA) officials, who may help develop trails.
Though SORBA members regularly help with designing and building trails, Mains said needs exist that will require funding like creating parking areas and restrooms, connecting utilities, and acquiring liability coverage.
“It will take a lot of coordination and of thinking about how best to go about it, and we need to come up with the money,” said Gouge. “Funding from the county is very short, and with the city, even though it has a larger budget, it has limited funding for projects like this. But everything is looking very promising.”
Mains said the possibility of creating a dog park and disc golf course is great, though he said it is too early to confirm anything.
Additionally, natural resources are abundant, and Gouge believes these would lend themselves to excellent bird watching opportunities and the potential for nature trails. Gouge said he has mentioned the concept to folks with the Herndon Chapter of the Ornithological Society, who currently host bird walks around Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area as well as annual bird counts.
City and county P&R officials plan to meet within the next two weeks to discuss the next steps for this project.
“It’s a natural beauty,” said Mains. “We have a great opportunity with this location to facilitate a multi-use recreational area for our residents and visitors.”