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MT. Holly Agreement
Charlotte Observer 6/26/05

Volunteers to start work on long-rumored Mount Holly trail this fall

Staff Writer

Forget the bike rack and lengthy car trip.

Gaston County will get its first official mountain bike trail by the end of the year, so beginners and serious riders alike won't have to drive far for a spin.

In the fall, volunteers expect to start building the trail in Mount Holly just west of Mountain Island Lake as part of the future Catawba Outdoor Corridor greenway.

They'll first clear existing trails that bike riders trespassing on private property have carved out, which amount to about 7 miles, said Jeff Smith, an engineer who's designing the trail. He's also the former president of the Tarheel Trailblazers, a Charlotte mountain biking group working on the project.

"When the snakes and mosquitoes subside, we can get out and start making some trails," he said.

It'll likely take between one and four years to complete what Smith hopes will be about 20 miles of family-friendly trails as well as loops that challenge the advanced rider.

Rumors of the trail surfaced about three years ago, but nobody thought it'd come to fruition, said Jack Moore, president of the Gaston County Bike Club.

He estimates that the county has hundreds, if not thousands, of bike riders.

"It'll be really nice to have some new trails," he said. "I'm anxiously awaiting."

Mount Holly city officials pushed for the trail after plans for a $25 million U.S. National Whitewater Center were finalized. Crews have already started construction on the center, which will be north of where Interstate 85 crosses the Catawba River in Mecklenburg County and will offer an artificial river with adjustable rapids. It's expected to open next spring.

"As Mount Holly continues to grow, (the corridor) will be a tremendous niche for the city," said Danny Jackson, community development director.

The trail will be built on about 440 acres of the Don Carmichael preserve, which Mount Holly officials are leasing from the city of Gastonia for $1 a year.

City officials want the trail to extend north to N.C. 16 and connect to Dutchmans Creek as well.

The Tarheel Trailblazers got involved soon after the city announced its plans, said City Manager David Kraus.

"They came to us and said, `What can we do to help?' " he said.

Meanwhile, bikers will have to strap bikes to their cars and search for trails outside Gaston County.

One of the closest trails, Catawba Riverfront Park, was closed for safety after construction on the whitewater center began.

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