With no reservations, we’ve believed the Coldwater Bike Trail is a bona-fide can’t-miss opportunity. Its location is grand. Its economic potential is immense. Its room for future expansion is touted by cycling experts.
The only thing lacking is completion: more trail miles, more entry points, more parking.
In simple terms, Thursday’s release of the trail’s economic-impact report by Jacksonville State University and the Calhoun County Community Development Corp. told us what we already expected. The trail’s impact on this region can’t be undersold.
In specific terms, Thursday’s release should quiet those who doubted the premise that mountain-bikers will flock to Coldwater Mountain and pump cash into the coffers of local cities, particularly Anniston and Oxford.
Within the report’s 60-plus pages are reams of data about everything related to the trail. It discusses riders’ average ages and incomes and the sizes of their traveling parties, plus the number of nights they will stay at local hotels. It’s an overload of data local political and business leaders should quickly absorb.
But three key points gleaned from the mountain-bikers surveyed for the Coldwater trails report are worth noting:
n 42.5 percent of them have an annual household income of $100,000 or higher.
n On a typical overnight stay, bikers would average spending nearly $140 a day on hotel, food and other items.
n The Coldwater trails will attract between 50,000 and 150,000 people a year and have an annual economic impact of $1.2 million — and that’s the conservative figure based on the fact that only 11 miles of trails have been completed. Sixty miles are planned.
Or, put another way, the theme embedded in the Coldwater trails report consists of one word:
As the report’s authors wrote, “Given that the survey responses were not limited to a narrow group of individuals located near the facility suggests that the excitement and challenge from a new course represents an opportunity to attract myriad visitors wanting adventure.”
Myriad visitors to Calhoun County represent a goldmine of new customers and clients for area businesses. Hotel owners should be ecstatic. Restaurant owners should be planning now: How do I get these bikers and their families to eat here? Even developers and Realtors should consider the data that indicates “direct correlations have been established between increases in home prices and proximity to biking facilities.”
Economically, the opportunities are endless.
One doesn’t have to enjoy mountain biking to see the obvious. The Coldwater trail is not an outdoor fad. This praise is not hyperbole.