Joe Medley/CNS

By Joe Medley/CNS
Barry Nicholls says he can see the future for cycling and outdoors enthusiasts in the area, and he sees families devoting long weekends to scenic rides from Anniston into Georgia and back. The president of the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Club, Nicholls can see riders from all over the country riding into Anniston. He sees entrepreneurs opening restaurants and bed & breakfasts.
His vision grows clearer as the linking of the Chief Ladiga and Silver Comet trails grows nearer, and it’s nearly done.
The second and final four-mile segment linking the two trails is expected to be finished by early August, and anticipation has spiked among spoke folk.
“Of course, the members of the bicycle club can’t wait,” Nicholls said. “From a cyclist’s standpoint, it will be a wonderful thing, to have it connected, and people won’t have to get off the trail and ride on county roads.
“To have that connection to go all the way through, certainly, we’re planning some big rides, once it’s connected.”
Strain Construction has completed work on the east four-mile segment, coming west from the Georgia line. The west segment will finish the link to the end of the Ladiga Trail, giving enthusiasts uninterrupted trail covering 101 miles from Anniston to Atlanta.
“Based on what we’ve been told and the weather that we have right now, which, of course, (has been) dry, we should be done with that second four miles in late July and early August,” said Pete Conroy, director for Jacksonville State University’s Environmental Policy and Information Center (EPIC) and chairman of the Chief Ladiga Rails and Trails Committee. “That means we’re done at that stage.”
Conroy said he envisions a grand-opening-style event involving both states’ governors in October. Adventures can begin sooner.
“We’ve already had reports of Atlanta CNN anchors on the Chief Ladiga Trail,” Conroy said. “They’re already coming over.”
Nicholls said a record 300-plus visitors signed in at the Eubanks Welcome Center in Piedmont during one week in May.
What kind of adventures can be had? Well, just about any kind.
Conroy and his family have established a favorite adventure of their own, starting at the state line. They ride to Cedar Town, GA., eat at a favorite taco stand and ride back.
The Ladiga and Silver Comet sides each offer their finer points.
Starting at Michael Tucker Park in Anniston, recreational cyclists can ride to the Georgia line in three to five hours. Along the way, one sees scenic features such as Terrapin Creek and Dugger Mountain.
“You cross Terrapin Creek five times,” Conroy said. “Each one of these trestles, they’ve all been rebuilt. They are spectacular views.”
Nicholls says he most enjoys the stretch between Piedmont and the Georgia line.
“That part from the center of Piedmont that would be east toward Georgia where it follows Terrapin Creek and goes across the bridge, that’s such a pretty part,” he said. “That may be the prettiest part on the whole trail.”
Greeting riders at the state line is a new archway, which, Conroy sayas, “is gorgeous, absolutely beautiful.”
The Silver Comet side features a large trestle near the state line and a 700-foot tunnel. The rider goes through several small towns.
“Going through the little towns like Cedar Town is really interesting,” Conroy said. “It’s almost an urban sort of landscape. In ways, it’s very different.”
The ride is not considered strenuous. Nicholls said most recreational riders can make 50 miles in a day.
“Because it’s a railroad grade, it’s never more than three or four percent in its inclination, in its grade,” Conroy said. “Long bicycle trips are a possibility for just anybody to get out there and go from Piedmont to Jacksonville or really go from one community to another.”
Soon enough, riders can go from one state to another on continuous trail.
(Cleburne County Highway Department engineer said Monday that, “Most items of work on the east section of the Chief Ladiga Trail should be complete within the next week or so. Work to begin on the west section during the week of June 18 and the total project completed in August or September..)
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