A new intermediate mountain bike trail will open next month at Enterprise South Nature Park, adding to the growing network of trails at the publicly owned property in Hamilton County.
The approximately 6-mile trail offers a more-advanced section of mountain biking than the existing trails at the park, with hillier, more technical aspects. It will be the longest individual mountain bike trail at the nature park, adding to the existing 10-mile mountain bike trail system. There is not an exact opening date, but it is expected to open sometime in April.
"It's an extension of the system that offers more advanced features for riders," Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association Vice President Craig Lawson said. "... It's the next evolutionary step for Enterprise."
SORBA, with its network of volunteers, is under contract with the county to build the system. The new trail was originally cut by professionals but has been hand-finished by volunteers, including mountain bike enthusiasts, Boy Scout groups and others looking to help add to the area's outdoor recreational opportunities.
Volunteers have spent many Saturdays over the last three years completing the trail.
"I think it's important for people to maintain a connection to nature," volunteer and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga student Pendleton Sibley said. "Society needs to facilitate more of these areas that let [access to nature] happen."
The new trail was originally scheduled to open two years ago, Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Director Tom Lamb said.
"There have been multiple delays," he said. "Some on the part of SORBA in terms of gathering the appropriate workforce but we had our own issues with a portion of the trail. What we were able to do was circle back and have a better system in place to keep the working relationship [between SORBA and the county] solid."
The $45,000 project being funded by the county and the Benwood Foundation is the first joint-operation between SORBA and the county in terms of trail building. Lamb believes the process and partnership they've developed with this system could continue to be implemented on future trails.
The new trail will connect to the east side of the property near the already existing Black Forest and TNT trails. It will have direct access from Gate 1 and Parking Lot 4 at the nature center.
The new trail will be called Atlas, not after the new Volkswagen vehicle that's built within a mile of the trail, but rather for one of the powder suppliers used when the property was an Army ammunition plant.
"We named it and then went 'Oh,'" Lawson said, describing when the group realized Volkswagen also planned to use the name. "Oh well, it's a good name."
It is the last planned mountain bike trail addition at the park, but the county hasn't ruled out eventually adding more, Lamb said.
For now, SORBA turns its focus to maintenance.
"And we could use all the help we can get," Lawson said.
Atlas isn't the only new addition to the property.
The long-anticipated equestrian trails at the property are expected to open soon. The trail will be 10 miles and is the first horse-only public trail system in the county. It is located in the north part of the property. A half-mile hiking trail also opened last week. The pedestrian-only trail is located at Parking Lot 1.
With the addition of Atlas, Enterprise South Nature Park has four mountain bike trails; an additional, short mountain bike trail for children; multi-use paved trails for cycling, running, skating and more; a wheelchair accessible trail; hiking trails; an equestrian trail; picnic areas and more.