Cycling has been an important recreation in Anniston, Alabama for many years. The Noble Street Festival/Sunny King Criterium has drawn top racing competition cyclists from around the world as well as spectators in the thousands. The Chief Ladiga Trail has invited long-distance cyclists of all levels to bike from Anniston all the way to the Alabama border where it joins the Silver Comet Trail in Georgia. Coldwater Mountain has provided opportunities for mountain biking enthusiasts to enjoy various trails and participate in events like the annual Coldwater Mountain Fat Tire Festival. The latter will be receiving a big financial boost–$1.1 million to be exact–to improve the trails and other features on Coldwater Mountain via Innovate Alabama.
Innovate Alabama is an organization whose mission is to grow the state’s economy through a variety of programs. Innovate Alabama supports varied aspects of the statewide economy like technological advancement, education, entrepreneurship, outdoor recreation, agriculture, industry, and more. They support entrepreneurs by helping them access resources or capital that help them with their particular areas of interest. Innovate Alabama has talent development programs like Emerging Scholars, FuelAL, and HBCU Innovation Experience, all designed to help undergrad and graduate students in Alabama find their place to thrive in the area of entrepreneurship.
One of the focuses of Innovate Alabama is to recruit young professionals to lay down roots in Alabama. Funds are awarded across the state to support development. Among these funds, outdoor development is an area where investment takes place. The organization recently decided to allocate funds in the amount of $1.1 million to be invested in improving the trail system at Coldwater Mountain in Anniston.
Tim Lindblom, a member of the Outdoor Recreational Advisory Committee for Innovate Alabama, shared that they recently had a round table meeting to discuss how the funds would be spent to improve the trails in the best way possible. First off, they would desire to elevate the trails from Bronze status to Silver status within the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). The IMBA is an organization that supports local mountain bike groups across the U.S. and helps with mountain bike trail building and promotion. Worldwide, their ride centers are as follows:
- Bronze Trails: 18 worldwide, 14 of which are in the U.S. (Coldwater Mtn. is among these)
- Silver Trails: 16 worldwide, 13 of which are in the U.S.
- Gold Trails: 6 worldwide, 4 of which are in the U.S.
The fact that Coldwater Mountain’s mountain biking trails are at a bronze level is already a draw. But overhauling them to bring them to Silver status would bring the trails more notoriety and attract more visitors to the area. The improvements that must be made to make this happen would be 1) increasing the number of miles in the trails, 2) improving public accessibility to the trails, and 3) improving local amenities that support the trails.
Currently, the Coldwater Mountain bike trails are owned by the state of Alabama through Forever Wild, and the trails have received support from the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association (NEABA), the City of Anniston, multiple local groups such as the Alabama Cycling Association high school race teams, and numerous local riders.
Lindblom is hopeful that the $1.1 million will positively impact what has already been a rewarding investment. He shared that a 2012 study conducted by Dr. Ben Boozer revealed that the economic impact of the trail was close to $4 million in annual revenue. They are in the process of conducting a new study to update those numbers.
The recent meeting of the Outdoor Recreational Advisory Committee began discussions where ideas were presented such as building new trails on Coldwater Mountain, doing maintenance on pre-existing trails, and providing better access to the trails including adding more parking lots. Improved amenities were also among the talking points. Lindblom stated that no final decisions had been made as yet on how exactly the money would be budgeted, but he did relay his wish that the improvement of the Coldwater Mountain biking trails could enhance what’s already going on in Calhoun County with mountain biking and cycling.
“A goal shared by many in the region is to connect all of the local trails. One day, we hope that trails will connect Coldwater Mountain to the Chief Ladiga Trail, the McClellan trail system, Choccolocco Park, the Talladega National Forest, and even to our cultural resources like the Anniston Museum and Gardens and the Freedom Riders National Monument sites.”
This is undeniably some exciting news for the cycling community here in Anniston and the surrounding cities of Calhoun County. We anticipate that the possibility of bringing the Coldwater Mountain biking trail to Silver status will have a positive impact on the region.