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New mountain bike trails planned for state park

NATCHEZ — Members of the Natchez Bicycle Club, and bikers from all over the Southeast, will soon have new mountain bike trails to ride at Natchez State Park.

Club members are working to create nearly 40 miles of trails, member and trail designer Scott Hanson said.

“We plan to have at least three different trails out there, each of them growing in distance and difficulty,” he said.

The first trail will be created from a natural trail that already exists at the park. It will be a beginner trail, about five miles long with few sharp turns and steep hills, Hanson said.

Hanson said he plans on having that trail completed by the fall.

The second project will be an intermediate trail, with moderate difficulty and distance. It will be approximately 10 miles, Hanson said.

The third will be an advanced trail, and Hanson said it will be about 15 miles long.

The plan is to have those trails laid out by next winter.

Creating the trails from scratch is a long process, especially since Hanson is already working on improving the Clear Springs trail at Homochitto National Forest, he said.

“(We) are working with a blank canvass,” he said. “First we have to find out how nature will run its course on the trail system. You can’t just lay it out because (if you don’t lay it out properly) and it rains it could wash away.”

Hanson has already mapped out the courses for the trails, and walked the maps to make sure they avoid trees and bad terrain, he said.

Natchez Bicycle Club President Allen Richard hopes that the new trails will provide opportunities for Natchez riders, as well as out-of-town bikers.

“For the (Natchez Bicycle) Club, it’s going to give us a venue closer than Clear Springs,” Richard said.

“(It) will also attract bikers from all over the region to come and ride.”

Hanson sees the trail as a destination for bikers, as well.

“It’s going to really improve (mountain biking in Natchez),” Hanson said.

“With the fact that (the state park) has cabins, lodging and trailer hook-ups, if the mountain bike trails are good enough, people will travel from all over to ride them.”

Hanson also thinks the variety of trails will help to expand interest in mountain biking in the area, he said.

“I want to have a large range of trails to get the (entire range of bikers),” Hanson said.

The project will include beginner trails suitable for children.

“But (also), I want to have more advanced trails, challenging enough that advanced (bikers) will come ride it,” he said.

One of the goals of the Natchez Bicycle Club is to grow cycling in the area, and new mountain bike trails will be a step in doing so, Richard said.

“I think (getting new trails) is great,” Richard said.

“Our goal is to make Natchez a cycling destination, and trails at the state park is another part of the total picture.”

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