By Beth Spain
Exit Union between White and Providence halls, cross Pleasant Plains Road, climb a hill to the left and find the trailhead leading into the university’s 75 acres of woods.
Members of the Jackson Spokes, a local club for road and mountain bikers, built the mile-long trail last year. It opens in a downhill ride through a hardwood forest, leads into a tight-knit pine thicket, mazes around skinny trees and exits at the top of a hill directly across the Pleasant Plains Road entrance to Union.
“You don’t have to be a bike rider to use it,” said Scott Lancaster, multimedia producer for the Office of University Communications.
The first thoughts of building Union’s trail began during the spring of 2009, after Lancaster rode a difficult path at Young Park, south of Jackson. That is when he met Gib Morehead, a bike mechanic for Bicycle City in Jackson and an avid mountain biker involved in the Jackson Spokes.
Lancaster said he wished there was a less challenging trail available, while Morehead, who has helped build several trials, said he would like a trail closer to Jackson.
“There are not many land opportunities to get trails [in Jackson],” Morehead said.
Later, Lancaster discovered Union owned the land across Pleasant Plains Road and started seeking permission to build a trail. By the fall of 2009, Morehead and Lancaster, along with other friends, started flagging trees and mapping the trail.
After Thanksgiving, Morehead gathered about 28 volunteers from the club with chainsaws and rakes. In a single day, the team worked their way through the forest, clearing small shrubs and fallen trees to create the path. Finally, the volunteers rode the path several times to define it as a trail.
Morehead said they hope to start a connecting trail later this month. The new trail would lead to the right side of the property, which has a more difficult terrain with gullies and ravines. Signage marking the trailhead and “short loop” trails are also in the plans, Lancaster and Morehead said.