Enterprise South Nature Park to add sought-after cycling trail thanks to anonymous donation

A person who asked not to be identified rides a bike at Enterprise South Nature Park Monday, June 17, 2019. The park will expand its road cycling trail system thanks to an $850,000 anonymous donation accepted last week by the Hamilton County Commission.

Enterprise South Nature Park will expand its road cycling trail network, adding a sought-after loop, thanks to an $850,000 anonymous donation accepted last week by the Hamilton County Commission.

The county was approached by a long-time park patron who wanted to give back to the community, county general services administrator Lee Norris told the commission last week. The donor enjoyed riding in the park but wanted more options for people who didn't mountain bike (the nature park has a highly-used mountain bike trail system). Patrons had long asked to ride the 5-mile, hilly, scenic outer road called Still Hollow Loop, Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Director Tom Lamb told the Times Free Press. However, it was chip-sealed - making the road rough for road bikes and bumpy - and narrow.

"The perimeter road of the park is a vehicle-only road. It is five miles long, but it has significant terrain challenges, so building an extra road essentially is what this does. It gives bicycle riders longer distance [and] a different path of travel than they've had," Lamb told the commission.

The park now has nearly 8 miles of paved roads that aren't designated for vehicles. There's also the 0.6-mile Poe Run loop and 1.5-mile Bunker Hill loop that are designated for vehicles and bicycles. When completed, there will be about 16 miles of paved road cyclists can use.

The parks department hopes to have the project done next spring, Lamb told the Times Free Press. That will depend on construction going smoothly, weather conditions and other factors. The design phase will take about six months and construction will take another six months.

Enterprise South Nature Park also has trails for hiking and trail running, 16 miles for mountain biking, 10 miles of equestrian trails, the Still Hollow Loop for scenic drives and picnicking areas. The park has 150,000 visitors annually.

Commissioner Randy Fairbanks questioned whether the parks department could build a cheaper path and use the rest of the money for other projects. The money was given for the purpose of building the path, and the planned project will use the full budget, Norris said.

"I was hoping, well, it's been brought up lately that we spend a lot of money, keep spending a lot of money out there," Fairbanks said. "Of course, you all have given us the reasons why - we feel like we're getting our return - but I was just curious if there would be any money from this we would be able to do anything else with in the future. This is going to be an $850,000 bike lane."

The department will not be getting extra funding for the project. The county government went through estimates and determined what the reasonable costs would be for the project, Norris said. They added more money to cover incidental expenses. The scope of the project will be reduced if it begins to go over budget, Norris said.

"I just really appreciate people, whoever this is," commissioner Greg Martin said. "I just appreciate people that have those kinds of resources and want to invest them in our community like that. It's just wonderful when people just have enough and think enough about their community to do those types of investments."

Contact Mark Pace at mpace@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook @ChattanoogaOutdoorsTFP.