The Coldwater Mountain Bike Trail gains in popularity each month. Last weekend the city hosted the grueling Woodland-Calhoun Century Challenge. Later this month, the weekend of bicycle overload — headlined in part by the Sunny King Criterium races in downtown Anniston — arrives again in Calhoun County.
The Chief Ladiga Trail remains the kink in this seemingly obvious, no-brainer story.
The short version: The Ladiga is a rails-to-trails ecotourism treasure that extends from Weaver to the Georgia state line; there it connects with that state’s Silver Comet Trail, which allows Georgians to bike from just outside Atlanta all the way into the heart of Calhoun County.
Anniston isn’t part of the Ladiga story — yet. The sad truth is the city, particularly a few members of the previous City Council, didn’t see the obvious value of extending the Ladiga all the way to Anniston’s multi-modal train station on 4th Street. Too many visitors on bicycles would see too much of Anniston’s unseemly industrial and low-income areas, they felt.
Among several other things, that’s called a severe lack of imagination.
Today, it’s encouraging that City Hall is embracing progress and moving forward with the legal issues surrounding Anniston’s part of the trail. (The same can be said for the rail-line spur into McClellan that the city has requested from the McClellan Development Authority — a “proactive step,” as Councilman Jay Jenkins called it.) Acquisition of non-city owned property along the former railroad line in Anniston has to be addressed. City officials actually seem optimistic about the process.
That’s good, because, quite frankly, it’s embarrassing that Anniston will play host to a crowd of professional and out-of-town cyclists later this month — and still the Ladiga Trail, one of east Alabama’s cycling gems, stops at the city’s border. To call that anything but a massive missed opportunity for tourism and development would be foolish.
It’s hard to describe the Model City as a true Bike City until the Ladiga extends into town. Thank goodness the city’s leaders are cycling in the right direction.