A local nonprofit trail association is working to make Chattanooga, a city with more than 50 trails within driving distance, into the most prominent place for trail exploration in the nation.
"We are going to be the Boulder of the South," said Mark McKnight, a member of the board of directors of the Wild Trails organization. "Some people already call us Trail City USA."
Staff photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press Robyn Carlton, with the Lookout Mountain Conservancy, shows off the 90 acres of property and land the group is raising funds to buy to extend the mountain's greenway area. The group is hoping to lead the Riverwalk up to the top of Lookout Mountain.
Wild Trails, formerly known as the Boonies: Wilderness Trail Association, was started in 2007 as a community of trail runners. It has worked with Rock/Creek Outfitters to support and market the Rock/Creek Trail Series, which attracts more than 3,000 runners from around the country each year and has drawn national attention to local trail running.
But organizers are looking to capitalize on the momentum and interest and want to expand the group's outreach to all trail users, including hikers, climbers, mountain bikers and bird watchers.
They hope to use a new Web site, to be launched the first of August, and fresh branding to drum up more sponsorship and funding for trail maintenance and education initiatives to expose more people to regional trails.
"We have the resources here," said Jonathan Mobley, director of Wild Trails. "We also have a growing community interest in these sorts of things. Attendance for trail races is doubling every year. It's overwhelming the support we've had."
IF YOU GO
* What: Chattanooga Market Outdoor Day, Wild Trails launch
* When: Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
* Where: First Tennessee Pavilion
Wild Trails will kick off its expanded efforts on Sunday at the Chattanooga Market Outdoor Day, where people will be able to sign up for individual membership in the organization for $25 a year.
Over time the group hopes to develop an interactive mapping system of local trails that could link people to difficult-to-find information such as trail length and the location of trailheads. Funding also could be put to use marking trailheads throughout the region.
In addition to bringing the community of trail users together under one umbrella, Mr. Mobley said they will continue to maintain weekly trail running groups through another Web site, www.runintheboonies.org.
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Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...