Polk County Pinhoti acquisition

The Conservation Fund and Pinhoti Trail Association have partnered to acquire another 77 acres in northwestern Polk County.

The purchase will enable the Pinhoti Trail group to build additional off-road woodland trails and eliminate road walks as part of the Pinhoti experience.

The Conservation Fund bought a rather linear 77.21-acre tract along the Hematite Branch, in the area of old Jackson Chapel Road southwest of Cave Spring. The property was purchased from Hancock Timberland VIII Inc. for $157,200.

Larry Madden of Cave Spring, treasurer and past president of the Pinhoti Trail Association, said the purchase will eliminate all of the remaining road walks between the Alabama state line and the Dead Goat Gate trailhead two miles south of Cave Spring.

“Conservation and economic development are what we’re involved in,” said Andrew Schock, Georgia state director for The Conservation Fund.

Schock said the more that communities realize the potential of green infrastructure, the more they can take advantage of it.

“The Pinhoti Trail runs basically right through downtown Cave Spring,” he said. “The trail in most of Georgia is a multi-purpose trail — pedestrian, mountain bikes and horses — so there is great opportunity for Cave Spring to take advantage of that.”

Mayor Rob Ware said the City Council is not yet on record in support but is ready to work with The Conservation Fund and officials in both Polk and Floyd counties to foster development of outdoor recreational opportunities and economic development activity.

“We’re just waiting to see what does occur,” Ware said.

The trail runs approximately 10.2 miles from the state line northwest to Cave Spring, entirely on property protected by The Conservation Fund.

Cave Spring is the first population center coming north after the trail passes east of Piedmont, Ala.

Schock said he can see something taking place south of Cave Spring similar to the popular Snake Creek Gap Time Trial Series, which was created to highlight northern sections of the Pinhoti near Dalton. The first of three races in the 2014 series, held last Saturday, brought 388 riders from 11 states.

Conrad Fernandez is a Dalton-based member of the Georgia Pinhoti Trail Association board and an organizer of the mountain biking races for Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association. Fernandez said the growth of the sport has been explosive.

“Endurance riders really like to challenge themselves,” he said. “January is one of the worst times of the year for mountain bike riding yet they still came in droves.”

Last year the three-event series drew a total of 523 different riders.

The Pinhoti Trail begins near Sylacauga, Ala., and extends for almost 335 miles to meet the Benton MacKaye Trail near Blue Ridge.

It travels up the western side of Floyd County. Virtually all of the mileage in Floyd County consists of road walks from Cave Spring to the Simms Mountain Trail off Huffaker Road.

From that point, the trail follows an abandoned rail bed into Chattooga County, where the trail connects onto Taylor Ridge north toward Dalton.