|Mountaintown Creek Trail is one of the oldest, most picturesque mountain bike trails in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests. Wild, narrow singletrack snakes down the mountain, tumbling over rocks and splashing across the creek. Flanked by verdant vistas, you keep your eyes focused on what lies ahead. Lose your focus, and the trail may trick you, throw you off. Mountaintown Creek demands your respect and attention-pay it or pay the price.
But, alas, at the end of the trail, the forest ends, and a stretch of private property, the Hills Lake neighborhood, lies between you and your car. This is a problem for anglers, hikers, and bikers alike, unless you want to turn around and climb up whence you came (a daunting task, at best). The Forest Service knows this is a problem for its users, and has begun to address the issue. The rangers of the Conasauga Ranger District,Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests have released a proposal to improve access to Mountaintown Creek Trail.
In summary, the USDA Forest Service proposes to route mountain bike traffic onto the existing Pinhoti Trail. The Pinhoti Trail intersects the Mountaintown Creek Trail about 1.7 miles up from the southern terminus, then turns north and follows the Mountaintown Creek trail to Forest Road 64. Mountain bikes are currently not allowed on this section of the Pinhoti Trail, and some rerouting of the trail is proposed to make the trail more suitable for mountain bike use. The Mountaintown Creek Trail below the Pinhoti Trail would be closed to mountain bikes and reserved for hikers. Also in this proposal, anglers would have a new trail built to the creek from the Bear Creek camping area parking lot. You can view the full proposal athttp://www.fs.fed.us/conf/sopa/recreation-nepa.htm.
SORBA and Trout Unlimited support the proposal. We have sent letters to the rangers in the Conasauga District showing our support. On July 12th we attended a meeting hosted by the rangers. Environmental experts, homeowners, Trout Unlimited leaders and members, SORBA leaders and members, and a Georgia ForestWatch representative attended this meeting, held at Hills Lake. We discussed the proposal as well as the issue of siltation in Hills Lake.
This meeting was positive, and most of those present support the proposal. The Hills Lake homeowners are concerned that mountain bikes on Mountaintown Creek Trail are causing their lake to silt up. Experts from the USDA and the USDA FS explained that mountain bikes aren't the cause of the siltation. Hills Lake was built in 1961, with an expected 50-year lifespan. The lake is naturally filling in, and evidently the sediment comes from logging and farming in the area as far back as the early 1900s. No evidence was given to support the idea that mountain bikes are causing the lake to fill in.
The USDA biologist and Trout Unlimited members explained that the creek is clean, and trout populations are thriving. If Mountaintown Creek were full of silt from mountain biking, then the trout would be struggling. Trout need clear, still pools of water to thrive, and they have that at Mountaintown Creek. The anglers are excited at the prospect of a new access trail to fish the creek. The anglers present had positive things to say about mountain bikers and the current proposal. Trout Unlimited supports the proposal, as is.
Georgia ForestWatch opposes mountain bikes on Mountaintown Creek Trail, and has asked to Forest Service to close the trail to mountain bikes. GFW does not support the proposal, and opposes opening the Pinhoti Trail that is currently closed to mountain bikes. The rangers will consider alternatives to the proposal, such as closing the trail to mountain bikes, as part of the process.
The rangers of the Conasauga Ranger District are hosting a hike, open to all interested parties, on Mountaintown Creek Trail on September 6th. SORBA leaders will attend this hike to assess the condition of the trail and to offer our opinions on the proposal. The input period for the proposal has been extended to September 20th to allow adequate time for comments following the public field trip on September 6th.
In the meantime, the rangers are working on the environmental analysis that is part of this process. The analysis will take approximately six months to complete. Once the analysis is done, the rangers will consider the results, along with the public input received, and they will announce their decision regarding the proposal.
SORBA is optimistic about the outcome of this process, and believes that Mountaintown Creek Trail will remain open to mountain biking.
You can view the proposal documents (http://www.fs.fed.us/conf/sopa/recreation-nepa.htm) on the USDA Forest Service web site.