Gary Moore, a volunteer trail director who helps maintain the local trails, said that the Blankets Creek trail off of Sixes Road saw about 85,000 trips over the last year, making it one of the busiest in the country.
He said the trail is about 14 miles long, including three main loops and two beginner loops.
“We usually put in, on average, probably 1,000 to 1,500 man-hours annually, in just maintenance alone,” Moore said. “We have trail counters that count at the parking lot trail head, and at each individual trail head, so we know that we have, annually, around 85,000-plus individual trips out onto our trail. ... We are typically in the top five or 10 in the nation in popularity.”
Moore said the newer Rope Mill trail off Rope Mill Road, which has about nine miles of trails, saw about 37,000 visits.
“Having those two systems right here in the Woodstock area is amazing,” Moore said. “We do have the opportunity for a number of activities out there. You are allowed to trail run, hike, dog walk, actually we see quite a bit of gold panning out at Blankets Creek, photography. It’s just amazing the number of different users that we see.”
Moore said mountain biking is the primary use of the trails, but said that the various “users get along well.”
Brian Stockton, Woodstock’s Office of Economic Development director and Greenprints Alliance board member, said that overall the plan has a cost of about $30 million, not including acquiring property, and said that the group is hoping to find private and corporate donors to help fund the various trail projects.
“The two sections that we’re trying to advocate for and hopefully raise money for are the Downtown Mile and the Downtown to Rope Mill connector,” Stockton said.
Stockton explained the various trails that were in development, and said the Fierce Trail construction at Rope Mill had been delayed, but “hopefully it would get started in the winter.”
“That was the trail that was privately funded with a match from the city,” Stockton said.
The Town to Creek trail that leads to downtown Woodstock, adjacent to the Woodstock West apartment community, is estimated to open in January 2014, and will run directly into the Noonday Creek trail, which is also under construction, Stockton said.
“With those two trails together it’s about a mile and a half from downtown Woodstock to (Highway) 92,” Stockton said. “That trail is meant to, in the future, go under 92 and tie into Cobb County’s trail system, which is being built up from the Kennesaw Mountain area to Bells Ferry Road.”
Stockton estimated construction on the Towne Lake Pass trail to begin in 2015, and the trail will go from Woofstock Park on Dupree Road, across Interstate 575 to Towne Lake Parkway.
Three other trail segments are funded, and the funds will become available in 2015, Stockton said. However, because issues with using the property owned by the Corps of Engineers, Stockton said the Greenprints Alliance is looking at alternative projects to prioritize.
“The thing we’re kind of talking about, as a priority project, is connecting the outlet mall to Rope Mill Park to downtown,” Stockton said.
Stockton explained how the police and fire departments in Woodstock have training and equipment to keep the trails safe and respond to emergencies quickly, including a four-wheeler for quick trail access and response time, and bike officers for safety.
“The fire department has a lot of equipment to rescue people off of the mountain bike trails pretty easily,” Stockton said. “They have gone out there and addressed the entire trail system.”
There are also GPS coordinates on the trail signs, so in the case of an emergency, the emergency personnel can respond to the correct place on the trails.
The Woodstock Parks and Recreation Department Director Preston Pooser attended the meeting, and City Council members Liz Baxter and Bud Leonard were there showing their support for the project.
More information on the Greenprints Trail system is available online, at http://www.greenprintsalliance.org.