But Les Hill, an Anniston police investigator and Weaver city councilman, sees more than a pile of garbage, trash bags and rusting old playground equipment in a cleared out area just a short drive from the Weaver City Hall.
“It’s just a bit of luck that we have this land,” Hill said Wednesday, looking out at the view of the mountains from the spot at top of the hill. “It’s a beautiful spot. It just kind of works out that we can use it.”
Hill hopes the spot, currently in the middle of 16 acres of unused city-owned land, will be the jumping-off point for a mountain bike trail in Weaver. It’s a project he thinks can attract eco-tourism and add to Calhoun County’s growing industry of mountain bike trails, while putting the town on the map.
“We’re blessed here with a lot of land that’s rugged,” Hill said. “You can’t really use it for anything else. You can’t build a shopping center up there.”
Hill said he discovered the city had access to the land using Calhoun County’s geographic information systems. He then introduced the plan at the first meeting for the city’s newly elected council to a receptive audience who, he said, would like to see the plans start to take shape before next summer.
A big reason for the enthusiasm, Hill said, is the project will cost next to nothing. The land already belongs to the city, the cleared out area is a perfect parking place, and he believes the trails can be built by volunteers.
Although much smaller in scope, it’s not a drastically different project from the in-progress Coldwater Mountain bike trails in Anniston. Mike Poe, a member of the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association, said the trails have gone a long way towards showcasing the potential for similar ideas in Calhoun County.
“Because it’s been in the news the last couple of years, people I think are aware of what it can do for the community,” Poe said. “It’s not just a benefit to the quality of life, people are seeing there’s a big economic benefit too.”
The focus on trails is part of a bigger push in the area to promote the natural landscape as a way to bring in tourism.
“We don’t have a lot of rivers, or a big lake, but what we do have is a lot of mountains,” said Patrick Wigley, the owner of Wig’s Wheels bike shop on Noble Street. “I think people in the area are realizing its low-hanging fruit.”
Hill’s proposed trail would differ from others in the area in one significant way, he said.
“We want to make it trail for beginners and family,” Hill said. “Most of the trails around here are more intermediate. It can be really frustrating for a beginner if they don’t have those trails to practice on. They can get discouraged very easy.”
Hill said he envisions the project, a short distance from the Chief Ladiga Trail, could become a popular day trip away from Coldwater, or even Cheaha, for families or individuals touring the area. In time, he said, it could be a great advertisement for the city of Weaver.
“It’s like being out in nature, but you’re still really close to the town,” he said. “It’s just a perfect, ideal spot for this kind of thing.”
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.