And if all goes according to plan, Anniston may be home to one of the region’s — if not the nation’s — top-ranking mountain biking destinations.
Tom Sauret, executive director of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association, told members of the City Council at their Tuesday work session that Coldwater Mountain is likely to soon qualify as a bronze level ride center by the International Mountain Bicycling Association, a designation only held by six centers across the globe.
And planned trails and additional amenities at the mountain could enhance its rating.
After a two-day public input session last month, plans for facilities at Coldwater grew from a 5-acre park on Monsanto Road to include a second 60-acre trailhead off Natalie Lane, located about a mile from Noble Street and the heart of the city’s downtown business district.
City Planner Toby Bennington said the city would be working with a group of owners to acquire the 60 acres. When asked about additional cost for the expanded project, he said more investigation needs to be done by the city regarding both the property and the investment in the park on the site.
Jerry Cargile of 4Site Incorporated, a design and engineering firm, presented a list of amenities planned for the sites in coming months and years.
The Monsanto site will house a gravel parking lot for 150 vehicles and grass parking for an additional 100, a small pavilion, a skills practice track and various connections to trails, trailheads and neighborhood access points.
The Natalie Lane site will offer additional paved and gravel parking; bathrooms, changing rooms and showers; a start and finish area for races with a podium; connection to trails of various difficulty levels, and connection to other trailheads.
Most of the amenities can be installed at the Monsanto Road site alone, but expanding to the two sites adds valuable parking spots for large events and additional access to downtown, including the planned extension of the Chief Ladiga Trail to the multi-modal station.
“We want to get people used to coming to the Anniston side of the mountain and get used to that being the entrance point,” he said.
Cargile said if all goes according to plan and the city and its partners can secure all necessary funding, Coldwater Mountain could make silver designation in 18 months and gold in about four years. Currently, there are only three silver ride centers in the United States, and Coldwater would be the first east of the Mississippi River. Park City, Utah is home to the only ride center that has reached IMBA’s gold standards.
Sauret said the word is spreading about Coldwater, whose 25 miles of track is already a draw in the region. In March, SORBA will be hosting its annual Southern Mountain Bike Summit at Coldwater, which he said normally draws 100 to 200 bike enthusiasts and local club leaders.
“It’s a great idea,” Councilman Jay Jenkins said of the plans during the regular council meeting. “It’s a great opportunity to tie the mountain bike trails to our downtown community. The idea is that it will generate revenue for our downtown merchants.”
In other business, the council:
— Authorized reimbursement of $10.70 to Brian Godby for expenses incurred while training in Tuscaloosa.
— Declared a group of properties to be public nuisances under the ordinance regarding trash and debris.
— Appointed Allen Roberts to the Commercial Development Authority with a term ending March 15, 2015.
— Authorized the Anniston Housing Authority’s five-year consolidated plan and budget.
— Awarded a bid to Chad Curvin Auction Services for professional auction of surplus vehicles and other property.
— Declared items ranging from bicycles to a television, from a wheelchair to a four-wheeler, as surplus property and authorized its auction.
— Approved an amended version of the retirement incentive for city employees first approved by the council in May. It allows those who take the incentive to continue on the city’s health insurance plan at employee rates for five years after retirement.
— Renewed a contract with BFI Waste Services (Allied Waste Services of Anniston) for solid waste collection for the city. In partnership with Anniston and Oxford, BFI will also offer a standalone recycling service to customers.
— Approved a tax abatement for Agility Fuel Systems, a company that installs natural gas engines into buses and trucks, for a $1.2 million expansion that will result in 108 new jobs. Councilwoman Millie Harris abstained.
— Approved a $15,000 allocation to the Longleaf Arts Council for a fall music festival in the city. Councilman Seyram Selase voted no.
— Approved a lounge retail liquor license for the Three Legged Monkey. Harris voted no.
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.