- Associated Press - Saturday, October 25, 2014

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Drew Sanford wanted a challenging trail to ride his mountain bike on in Clarksville.

So he built one.

Now he’s building another. And the part-time Parks and Recreation Department employee is looking forward to building several more.

Sanford is leading a group of bike enthusiasts and volunteers as they carve out trails at the city-owned North Ford Street Mountain Bike Trail Park, under development in the New Providence area.

He was hired by the city after he attended meetings with a group of bike enthusiasts who wanted to help the city build bike paths on the 90 acres of donated land just west of a bend in the Clarksville Greenway.

He’s spent the better part of a year mapping out the best paths, clearing foliage and brush, excavating areas that need it and building up others.

“For me, it’s just been a fact: If you want the best trail to ride, you have to build it,” he said.

Parks and Recreation Director Mark Tummons said he’s excited to have a city bike park and he looks forward to expansions.

The first leg of the trail opened in late June and was designed for riders with plenty of experience. Signs warn: “Experts only. Expect drops, rocks, trees and other obstacles.”

Another path, at least as challenging, is expected to open this month, and Tummons hopes that a novice trail can be underway by next summer.

While the city has plenty of land - donated by the Pressler family in 2008 - it doesn’t have much money dedicated to constructing the park, Tummons said.

In February 2012, Park and Recreation staff met with biking clubs, members of the International Mountain Bicycling Association and Southern Off-road Bicycling Association, and the state greenway coordinator.

The IMBA helped with the initial design, and Sanford was hired part time to work on the bike trails with the help of volunteers.

“All of this has been done on a shoestring,” Tummons said. “We don’t have any money to put toward it except for the part-time maintenance worker.”

He said the city was lucky to find and hire Sanford.

“It’s been really nice to have someone with his knowledge, experience and contacts do this,” Tummons said. “We’re extremely fortunate.”

Sanford said he’s lucky to have so many volunteers willing to help him do the dirty, sweaty, physical labor.

“A lot of these guys understand no one is going to build and maintain a trail for them,” he said.

The first section of trails opened June 28 and is already a hit with a core group of advanced mountain bikers.

But it’s not recommended for less-experienced riders. Also, no hikers, motorized bikes or horses are allowed. That’s because the trail is too narrow for both hikers and bikers at the same time, and motor bikes or horses would damage the trail.

There is parking at the trail head, which is off North Ford Street, and picnic tables. A connector trail leads to a series of advanced trails with quirky names the volunteers came up with. The “Trans-AM Circuit” was named for a toy TransAm car found in that section of woods, surrounded by ant hills.

Signs tell riders which direction to ride on certain days. One day they might take a hill up; the next day, traffic on that hill would flow down. There is room for only one bike at a time, so all traffic must flow in the same direction to avoid collisions.

Even the most experienced riders will have mishaps from time to time, Sanford said. So it’s important to wear a helmet and know how to fall.

If someone is seriously hurt, an old service road cuts through the trails and is available for emergency vehicles. Clarksville Fire Rescue’s wilderness unit, which uses off-road vehicles, has a map of the trails so they can reach any point if needed.

Because of the difficulty level of the first trail, Tummons said, it is recommended for riders 16 and older with plenty of experience. Anyone under 16 should ride with a parent.

The first leg is 2.2 miles. A leg just over 3/4 of mile long should open later this month, so the expert trail will then total 3 miles, Tummons said.

Sanford said that trail has already been cleared. He’s hoping it will rain about twice before the opening to help the recently cleared sections settle.

All of the trails were designed with erosion in mind. Many of the dips and bumps are not only fun to jump, but were planned to drain water away from the trail.

The section Sanford just cleared will include the “Poplar Gap Jump,” which some riders will use to jump a horizontally growing tree. Less-daring riders can go around it. On Wednesday, Sanford was setting down flags to map the course for that jump, with dirt ramps to be built on both sides.

That feature is just one of the many things he loves about the wooded site. “It’s like a jewel just perched right in the middle of Clarksville,” he said.

The novice trail will hug the area closest to the Clarksville Greenway, and riders will be able to access it from Lennox Drive near the Greenway’s Pollard Road Trail Head, where there are restroom facilities.

Another area of the 90 acres will be set aside for intermediate-level riders.

“I’d hope maybe a year from now, we can get started on those trails,” Tummons said.

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Information from: The Leaf-Chronicle, http://www.theleafchronicle.com

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