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Public support needed for multi-use trail at county lake

Messenger Intern

Area bicyclists have turned an interested eye to the potential of the land surrounding the Pike County Lake.

The lake, which is owned by the state but run by the county, serves one purpose for Troy: a fishing hole.

However, Glenn Garner and others have visions of a multi-use facility that would not only attract local bicyclists who are searching for a safe place to lay down their treads. The facility would also benefit joggers, walkers, bird watchers, and campers, among others.

Garner, who has owned Sierra Trail and Cycle for more than two years, has seen the people come through who are looking for a place to ride bicycles and he has sold more than 300 bicycles in his two years here.

However, he has to tell his customers and other bicycle enthusiasts that the closest trail is more than an hour north of here in Wetumpka.

"We’re just trying to get support from the community. If they want to see it happen, they can call the mayor," Garner said.

Aside from needing the public’s interest, the trail needs funding. However, Garner said the trail would "not be that expensive."

"It would mostly require labor and manpower," he said.

It is possible that bridges, bathrooms, signs and a gravel parking lot would need to be built, according to Garner.

"There are a lot of people in town who ask where they can go biking. I have to tell them the closest trail is an hour and a half away. Many people try to stay away from the traffic, and, to do that, they have to drive way out there," Garner said.

There are a few church youth groups in town that like to ride bicycles, however, the safety factor is questionable since there are not many non-roadway places to ride.

Garner also knows people on the bicycle circuit who are willing to drive to Birmingham to ride their bikes on a trail. Building a multi-use facility would bring some of those bicycle enthusiasts to Troy, Garner said.

Mountain bike races are also part of the vision.

Right now Garner is talking to Mayor Jimmy Lunsford about his vision, and the reaction has been promising.

"If there is a big interest in the community, then we need to study this situation. Anytime we can do something to improve recreation, I am all for it," said Mayor Jimmy Lunsford.

"However, since [the lake] is not within the city limits, we will need to find out if this would need to be a city, county or state project. I am hoping to investigate anything. This is something we need to investigate so we can see what needs to be done to make it a reality," he said.

Several years ago, a Troy man was interested in building a golf course in the same area Garner is interested in building the multi-use facility. The probability of it being possible was great, however, the man decided to locate the course in Dothan instead.

Lunsford said the city would not be interested in buying the land from the state because that would "cost far too much."

"We’re trying to get [the mayor] on our side. He has been really helpful and open-minded. We are just looking for the community to rally together and support the facility," Garner said.

Garner’s intentions of acquiring a multi-use facility that "anybody and everybody" could use are true. Although Sierra Trail and Cycle targets outdoorsy people, Garner just wants a place to ride.

"If there was a trail, I would definitely ride it. I’m not really wanting to advertise the business. My main focus is to give people a place to ride.

"I’m trying to keep the business aspect out of it," Garner said.

According to the International Mountain Bicycling Association, studies have shown that these facilities stimulate local economies by attracting bicyclists, hikers and other tourists to the area.

Multi-use pathways also provide opportunities for communities to get to know each other. The offer a chance for people to get out of their homes and cars and come in contact with each other on a regular basis, IMBA said.

The B & A Hike and Bike Trail in Maryland is commonly referred to as "Anne Arundel County’s backyard" because so many people use it to meet, talk and generally catch up on local affairs, IMBA said.