By Gary Gray
Another mile of mountain bike trails will be constructed this winter at Johnson City’s Winged Deer Park thanks to a $10,000 grant from PeopleForBikes to SORBA Tri-Cities.
Area Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association chapter members and city officials gathered last week for a brief ceremony at which it was announced the grant funds will go toward the estimated $20,000 it will cost for Knoxville’s Contour Trail Design to construct the 1-mile beginner trail.
“SORBA has built 2.25 miles of trail at Winged Deer, and the beginner trail has already been approved,” said Marc Upton, SORBA Tri-Cities vice president and Parks and Recreation Advisory Board member. “The original concept shows a total of between 5 and 6 miles of natural surface trails. SORBA also wants to construct another trail on the north ridge of the bike park. That has not yet been approved.”
When complete, the trail system will serve area youth mountain biking programs including a brand new Little Bella club chapter and two local high school mountain biking teams.
SORBA Tri-Cities President Jerry Greer said about $60,000 is needed to finish all phases of construction at Winged Deer.“Construction originated in 2014,” said Jim Hughes, Parks and Recreation assistant director. “For years a large group of people that have mountain bikes in the area had only a few locations to use and they were not very well maintained. When Roger Blakeley was director he and I talked about how this area needed the trails, and he wanted to grow some of these aspects with the Tweetsie Trail coming on line.”
Hughes got together with several SORBA members and talked about potential locations, including Buffalo Mountain.
“We decided on the Winged Deer property, after discussing it with the Advisory Board,” he said. “There were natural features that just cried out for a mountain biking trail. We held meetings to make sure the walking trails would not be disturbed, and worked on the layout.”
SORBA, a nonprofit, has pursued the land management avenue and has not asked for money to help them construct and maintain the trails.
“This particular mountain bike park is certainly fortuitous to the beginning mountain biker and the larger populous,” Hughes added. “This is convenient to people in Sullivan and Carter counties, and we hope to utilize existing parks to tie into the trails. Rotary Park’s open space, for example.”
The PeopleForBikes Community Grant Program provides funding for important and influential projects that leverage federal funding and build momentum for bicycling in communities across the U.S. These projects include bike paths and rail trails, as well as mountain bike trails, bike parks, BMX facilities, and large-scale bicycle advocacy initiatives.
Since 1999, we have awarded 395 grants to non-profit organizations and local governments in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Our investments total more than $3.3 million and have leveraged nearly $770 million in public and private funding.
Anyone interested in joining SORBA Tri-Cities or volunteering to build trails can find more information at sorba-tricities.org.