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Bicycle enthusiasts blaze new trail

As fall approaches, most people begin looking for good reasonsto get out of the house and enjoy the cooling weather.

Two local bicycle enthusiasts were no different. Until HurricaneKatrina hit two years ago, they would travel to Clear Springs inFranklin County in order to ride on the mountain bike trailsthere.

“We’d go down there and ride,” said Brookhaven photographerJohnny Smith. “They’ve got 20-something miles of trails downthere.”

The trails, though, were rendered unusable after thehurricane.

“It’s federally funded, so it was taking forever to get it fixedup after Katrina,” Smith said.

That’s when he and Tracy Case, manager of the Brookhaven Bikeand Sport Shop, had an idea for a solution. Smith’s property hadcaught fire at one point and he had a chance to see the lay of theland.

Suddenly it occurred to Smith that he had something to workwith. That’s when they started work on creating new bicycle trailson the property.

“We just built it ourselves,” he said. “We got to cutting vinesand shoveling and raking dirt, and we made crossings and bridgesand jumps. I’d suddenly wonder ‘What am I doing?'”

Case said the project was to give themselves somewhere to ride,but also to share the addiction.

“This is something I like to do, and I want other people to likeit, too,” he said. “We started building the trails and then wordgot around that we had a good place to ride.”

The trails are about six minutes from Brookhaven on Mount ZionRoad, Smith said. Visitors should look for a little woodenstructure less than a mile from the Old Mount Zion Store and OldRed Star Road. It’s located just off the road with a gate and twoAmerican flags flying.

“There’s not a sign yet,” said Smith, adding that there is aflat area where visitors can leave their cars while they ride.

In part, the actual building of the trails was as good for Smithand Case as riding on them.

“I got to where I found comfort in the work like some people doin their garden, walking around with a machete and clearing thetrails and such,” said Smith.

Case said it wasn’t without its tough spots, though it was alearning experience.

“The hardest part was getting a good loop,” he said. “We had tomake the trails connect so you could come back to where youstarted. When we took on the project, we didn’t think of that, wejust walked through the woods and said, ‘We can go throughhere.'”

There are two trails in the project. The advanced trail is fivemiles, and the beginner trail is two miles. Both trails are markedwith arrows, and Smith said there are 14 different bridges andcrossings on the property.

It’s important to the trail founders that safety andtogetherness be stressed for anyone who wants to ride the trail,which is open to the public.

“This is good for kids, so bring the whole family, but alsobring your helmet, because anyone that rides seriously needs ahelmet,” said Smith, who said sometimes groups who meet there haveimpromptu get-togethers. “We have the grill and everyone bringswhat they want to grill, and we just fellowship and have fun aftereveryone gets done riding.”

Case is quick to point out the benefits of getting involved withbiking, both to individuals and families.

“The main benefit is fitness, because you’ll definitely loseweight. It’s great cardio,” he said. “Plus, for anyone who’s intothe nature thing, you get to be out among the trees and flowers andanimals.”

And on top of that, there’s something on the trails for everyoneas well, Case said.

“We’ve got jumps and ramps, and there are easy, wide, flowytrails for beginners,” he said. “There’s something for everyone toride. It’s not the X-Games, though we have some of that, too. Butyou can enjoy riding without worrying about your lifeinsurance.”

Which illustrates the fact that riders of all descriptions canenjoy the trails, Smith said.

“Tracy’s a kamikaze, he’ll jump his bike off a house,” Smithsaid with a laugh. “And word’s gotten out and people come out andtrain for the mountain bike racing circuit. They use it as atraining tool to get ready for the Mississippi series.”

Smith said the trails are open to the public, though it hasn’treally been advertised yet.

“We haven’t really officially announced it yet, though thebiking club knows about it, and they come ride,” he said. “We’retrying to do a Web site, too. We just want everyone to know anyonecan come out there. We’re ready for that now.”