NWGA SORBA was officially started in 2005, but like most chapters we began long before then through doing trail work and ad-hoc group rides.
Most of the rides and trail work would center around the Pinhoti which is a hidden treasure for the City of Dalton. We would ride with friends and run into other mountain bikers. As we met more bikers, our list of contacts for the next outing began to grow. Trail workdays were another opportunity to meet people who were passionate about trails. Sometimes, they would have the same passion for mountain biking.
Some of these riders / trail angels have been involved with the Georgia Pinhoti Trail Association since the mid 90’s. The Pinhoti flags started showing up on the section of Dug Gap trail where we were already riding. In the interest of protecting our rights to ride mountain bikes on the trail, we came out of the shadows and started working with the Pinhoti folks.
Rick Moon aka Moon Dog was the first to officially join the Georgia Pinhoti Board of Directors. He later recruited James Stankowitz and Conrad Fernandez to the Board. Recently, Jeff Williams, Chris Hohol and Bill Hester have joined the Georgia Pinhoti Board of Directors.
We knew the Pinhoti was a unique point-to-point multi-use trail in the southeast and wanted to keep it that way. We were involved in the actual trail layout and for keeping it as natural as possible. During trail work days and riding the trail, we often talked about how the Pinhoti should be a destination mountain bike trail. We wanted a way to showcase this new gift to the mountain bike community.
In 2005, we were watching a group of roadies in the area try to get organized. We thought about doing the same for mountain biking. In the effort to become more organized and have a stronger advocacy voice, our group sent James Stankowitz to a SORBA board meeting to request our group be added as the 14th SORBA chapter. The Pinhoti Trail was used as a rallying point. Dalton is sandwiched between the two giants of Chattanooga and Atlanta. We use the trail as a geographical bridge between these areas. Dalton is too small of a community to sustain a SORBA chapter long term. To build a chapter, our plan was to attract members from all of Northwest Georgia. Our members are drawn from Dalton and the surrounding cities – Ringgold, Calhoun, Lafayette, Summerville, Chatsworth and Rome.
The carpet industry in Northwest Georgia supports a full spectrum of talent including mechanical, electrical, and software engineers, as well as graphic designers, and sales and marketing specialists. We also have medical professionals, machinists and heavy equipment operators. When we sit around the table, it is amazing to see this diverse group of individuals all working together towards the same goal.
One of our first chapter projects was to showcase the Pinhoti Trail system through hosting the Snake Creek Gap Time Trial series. From humble beginnings four years ago when we had only a handful of riders, we have grown steadily. This year’s event boasted approximately 300 professional and amateur riders from thirteen states and Canada. Some of the states represented include California, Ohio, Michigan, Rhode Island, Kentucky, and West Virginia. The riders come here to test their skills in conquering six mountains on the Snake and Johns Mountain sections of the Pinhoti Trail System.
As our chapter continues to grow, so does our list of projects. Although primarily known for being the host of the Snake Time Trials, Northwest Georgia SORBA has other projects that we actively pursue. In the fall of 2005, our chapter worked with the City of Dalton on an MOU for our members to develop a mountain bike park on city property. The chapter built three trail loops of increasing skill levels. The ‘Cub’, ‘Bear’ and ‘Grizzly’ provide a total of six miles of trail. In 2006, several of our members served on a committee to submit a grant for expanding the Raisin Woods Mountain Bike Park. In fall of 2007, the City of Dalton received a $51K grant from Georgia DNR to add 3 miles of trail to Raisin Woods, install restrooms and build a parking lot at the MTB Park. More than $18K of in-kind labor was pledged by the City of Dalton, Whitfield County Public Works, Boy Scout Troop 111, Boys & Girls Club, Whitfield County Sheriff’s Department and NWGA SORBA. We are now flagging the new trail addition and will soon begin trail construction.
We have also partnered with the Boys & Girls Club to help them develop their Mountain Bike Program. This unique program introduces kids to the sport of mountain biking. It also promotes a healthy lifestyle. Our chapter plan activities such as building bike storage, hosting rides and building trails on the Boys & Girls Club property. We completed converting a storage shed to hold 50 bicycles and helped the B&G Club layout and build the trails on their property.
We continue to foster our relationship with the Forest Service’s Conasauga Ranger District and participate with other trail users – hikers and equestrians – on trail workdays. We received a pleasant surprise from the Larry Thomas, Operations Team Leader from the Conasauga Ranger District. The Forest Service and Georgia DNR worked to together to build a connector trail at Fort Mountain State Park to the Pinhoti Trail.
Currently, we are working with Whitfield County on the Rocky Face Ridge Trail System on Buzzards Roost. Stay tuned for the official grand opening in the Spring of 2021.