A group of local mountain bike enthusiasts are hoping an eventual addition to the Warner Parks system will accommodate their hobby.
After Thursday, the group’s members might have a better idea if their hopes can become a reality.
The Middle Tennessee Chapter of the Southern Off-Road Mountain Bike Association (SORBA) wants the future Burch Reserve to offer a mountain bike trail component. Members plan to attend a community input meeting to take place Thursday, Jan. 27, at the Warner Parks Nature Center at 6:30 p.m. During the meeting, the first in a series, Nashville-based project master planner Hodgson & Douglas will be present to provide details and take public input.
“Mountain biking was documented by the Metro Planning Organization as a one of the most underserved communities in Metro Nashville,” said Carolyn Heichel, outgoing president of the Middle Tennessee chapter of SORBA and the group’s current membership chair.
Heichel noted that the Metro Parks and Recreation Department currently offers only one park — Hamilton Creek — with mountain biking options. That park is located in the southeastern portion of Davidson County on TVA property that Metro leases. Warner Parks, located in the county’s western segment, would benefit from a mountain bike trail, she said.
“Many land managers fear that mountain bikes will damage terrain and create erosion,” Heichel said. “Multiple studies have been done to study the impact of different user groups (hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians, ATVs, etc.) Of all the user groups, mountain biking was found to have the least negative impact to the vegetation, soil, water and wildlife and differed little from hiking in its contribution to soil impacts. In addition to its low environmental impact, mountain bike trails are traditionally designed, built and maintained by volunteer labor and grants through SORBA/IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association).”
Heichel said SORBA’s vision for the newly acquired Burch Reserve property — a public use date for which has not been announced — would be an 8- to 10-mile mountain bike perimeter trail avoiding the old-growth areas of the land.
Bob Parrish, Metro Parks Department superintendent of natural resources, said the department is receptive to the mountain biking option.
“Our park board has a written agreement with SORBA on how we work together,” Parrish said. “We acknowledge the contributions SORBA makes. We are conducting meetings with SORBA representatives and are working on some strategic planning to have mountain bike trails geographically placed within the county.”
Whether a trail is placed in Burch Reserve — land that is part of the North Reserve Properties located on the north side of Highway 100 near the T-intersection with Old Hickory Boulevard — is another matter.
Friends of Warner Parks, a nonprofit that oversaw the acquisition of the land, is expected to have some say in the issue.
“We are very open to a lot of things happening within Warner Parks,” said Eleanor Willis, FofWP executive director. “We’ve very open to meeting people’s needs and wants.
“Our plan is to hear what everybody has to say on Thursday,” Willis added. “We won’t be promising anything at that point and won’t be making any definitive statements. We just want to digest it all.”
Heichel noted the new Metro parks greenway and bike path that will extend from the existing Richland Creek Greenway to Percy Warner Park as a factor in the consideration of a mountain bike trail.
“This will provide safe bike access to the parks from several surrounding areas,” she said of the greenway and bike path extension. “I can't think of a better addition to this park system than a mountain bike trail that can be safely reached by a greenway.”