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New Trails At Sherman Branch
From the Charlotte Observer, 26jan06

Club Wants To Create Bike Trails On Site Of Future Park

MICHELE WAYMAN
mwayman@charlotteobserver.com

Someday, a swath of land in eastern Mecklenburg will be a county park. But until then, members of the Tarheel Trailblazers club want to create build miles of mountain biking trails on the 200-plus acres next to Bradfield Farms.

The club has built five mountain bike trails in the Charlotte area. Members said a good example of what they'd like to build off Camp Stewart Road is their trail at Col. Francis Beatty Park in southern Mecklenburg.

Residents at an East Park district community meeting held at the Bradfield Farms clubhouse Thursday night said the future park is already used. People bike and walk existing trails, ride all-terrain vehicles but also dump trash.

Biking club vice president Jerry Adams said the soil is good and the topography is ideal to build beginner to advanced bike courses. He said volunteers have spent hundreds of hours walking the land so far and estimates that the volunteer work at project end would be worth about $500,000. The trails would be about 2 feet wide.

If the park and recreation commission approves the trails, the 6- to 8-mile system could be complete in as early as two years. If it works out, Adams said the group would like to become part of the park's master plan.

Resident Ron Howell said he supports the bike trail plan as long as residents can share the trails. Club president Tom Mathews said he encourages residents to use the trails, and club members building and riding trails can act as a deterrent to miscreants. "We are eyes out there," he said.

Howell also said there have been hunters on the land. Park and recreation staff confirmed that hunting is not allowed. Other residents are concerned about access. Bradfield Farms Homeowners Association president Doug Morris' backyard faces the property, and people already cut through to get to the land. He would like a wider buffer between houses and the trail.

Parking would be available in a lot off Camp Stewart Road, but the club and neighborhood may work together on building safe access points within the neighborhood. Linda Morris wondered about safety on the trails. Smith said it is hard to plan for accidents, but people are encouraged to not use the trails alone.

The county bought the land in 2001 for $3,092,000, according to land records. It was set aside for a district park but construction is not yet planned, funded or scheduled, said East District general manager Andra Eaves. She said a district park usually includes areas for active recreation, such as ballfields, but park leaders would meet with residents before creating a construction plan. The Trailblazers agree to avoid three areas -- a wildlife area that's home to Hooded Warblers and Kentucky Warblers, both uncommon birds to Mecklenburg; two fields where birds nest and a pond where the largest Common Musk turtle in the county was found.

The East District Advisory Council likely will vote Feb. 16 on whether to recommend approval or denial of the project to the Park and Recreation commission. The commission could decide as early as March 14. Questions or comments: (704) 568-4044 or eavesar@co.mecklenburg. nc.us.





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