Mountain Bike Trails

Thanks to dedicated volunteers along with state and private funding, Valdese Lakeside Park has 4.2 miles of Mountain Bike Optimized Trail.

Over four months, with 63 workdays, we had 1120 volunteer hours put in by 73 different volunteers. Some volunteered for just one day and some worked almost every workday. $83,000 from the Office of State Budget Management through a directed grant thanks to Rep Blackwell covered the trail design with detailed report, contractor work, bridges, obstacles, signage and tools. (Photo Gallery of Volunteers)

Getting to this day has been a long process. Mountain bike trails are in the original Master Park Plan completed in 2019. With most of Phase One construction completed, Friends of the Valdese Rec (FVR) started looking at building mountain bike trails in 2022. Hoping for a one contractor design build to save money, after interviewing several contractors, FVR learned they would have to hire a mountain bike designer to lay out the trail and create a report for the NC Land and Water Fund to review (cost $22k). In February, 2023, Community Trail Design started exploring the park to determine the best route for a fun trail keeping the conservation needs in mind. It took almost a year to get the design completed and approved (back and forth with NCLWF on changes) to protect the dwarf-flowered heartleaf plant and creeks.

In January, 2024, Long Cane Trails was chosen as the contractor for the project. It was critical to find a firm willing to work with volunteers doing a large amount of work due to our limited funds and spending deadline. The funds FVR received from the state had to be spent by June 30, 2024 and there was only enough for a hybrid build model (contractor with volunteer help). Out of six contractors, Long Cane Trails was the only one willing.

From February 2 – April 2, volunteers “cleared the corridor.” This involves hand sawing trees at thigh height to make it easier for the contractor to completely remove the trees and set the tread. It also involves hauling off cut branches and brush, clearing briars, and verticalizing the corridor (clearing limbs that may hit a bike rider or hiker). Once cleared, the contractor came with a machine to define the tread. After that, Round 2 started which is cutting roots left in the tread, fixing any drainage spots, and making sure the trail is safe. Volunteers made finishing touches on Friday, May 31 – 4 months after starting. There is still a little more to do with signage and hauling off some brush – but it is ready to ride! Volunteers Sam Fitzwater, Johnny Poteat and Eric Heile attended most every workday – and if they missed, they came out on a different day to make up for it. Close behind those three are Chris Blake, Tom Troy, Beth Heile, Margaret Sundell and Jim Boucher. FVR is so thankful to all the volunteers aged 7 to 73. Laura Johnson, Laura Betancourt, Pam Deloach, Mark Rostan and the Darling Family were other frequent workers.

The 4.2 trail, shaped like a lollipop or lasso, is the longest trail (miles and time) that the FVR Trailblazer Volunteers have taken on. And, it the continuous backbreaking work has taken a toll. In the beginning, volunteers were under the gun to get the trails ready for the contractor by a certain day. This resulted in 4 and 5 workdays per week. Then, there was just pressure to beat the heat and get folks out on the trail. Past trails built by the volunteers include the 0.1 mile trail to Meditation Point (2020), the 1.5 mile reroute of Outer Loop (2021) and the 0.6 mile Lakeside Loop (2023). With the hard work, there are still plenty of laughs and friendships formed.

Because of the trail shape and the number of holly trees along the route, the mountain bike trail is named Hollipop Trail. It starts behind the restrooms at the Valdese Lakeside Park parking lot. For the “stick” hikers and bikers will all be going in both directions. However, at the loop, hikers and bikers will go in opposite directions. This trail was designed and built for mountain bikers and they will have the right of way. The Hollipop Trail does cross Rostan Creek Trail two times and is co-located with the Outer Loop for a short distance.

Dedicated Volunteers – Christ Blake, Johnny Poteat, Eric Heile, Sam Fitzwater, Tom Troy

Timeline for a Hollipop

July 2018:

  • Valdese Master Park Plan Completed with Mountain Bike Trails included as Phase 2

Fall 2021:

  • State appropriation announced for Mountain Bike Trails thanks to Rep Blackwell during 2021 General Assembly Long Session

Fall 2022:

  • State Funding in hand (one year after designated)
  • FVR starts interviewing Mountain Bike Trail Contractors to do design-build
  • FVR learns NCLWF requires approval of entire trail, not just creek crossings

January 2023:

  • FVR goes back to six contractors asking for only design plan
  • Community Trail Design is awarded the bid

December 2023:

  • Trail design and authorization completed
  • FVR contacts contractors to see who is willing to work with volunteers

January 2024:

  • Contract with Long Cane Trails for trail excavation

February 2024:

  • Volunteer effort to clear the trail corridor in preparation for contract work
  • Volunteers have 4 weeks to get ready for contractor to start Phase One of the mountain bike trail

March 2024:

  • Clearing trail corridor is ongoing as Long Cane Trails begins trail excavation
  • Start of volunteer effort to finalize the trail for bikers

May 2024:

  • Long Cane Trails completes the trail excavation phase of the project
  • Volunteers complete the process of preparing the trail for usage by park visitors

June 2024:

  • Trail is open

Having this amenity will bring families with different interests and capabilities to the park for the whole day and everyone will have something to do that they enjoy. Whether is just walking the ADA greenway, fishing, hiking the more strenuous trails, picnicking, mountain biking or a mixture of several activities. With the new trails, Friends of the Valdese Rec hopes to start an after-school mountain bike club, and provide bikes for kids who need them. The goal is for this to lead to a Mountain Bike PE class at the school and a love of getting healthy outside.

Individual Donors to the Mountain Bike Trails

Frances Hildebran – $100
Katharine & Stewart Wright – $75
Tripp Garrou – $500
Alicia Burns – $500
In honor of David Andersen – (by Mandy Ide)

The gallery of photos is the work of Debbie Montanez (Gavin Smith is the biker):

Direction of traffic at loop: