Forever Wild Trail

Cyclists use the Forever Wild Trail in this 2017 file photo.

With a nod to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Dothan leisure officials will leave a new trail next year — one that can produce a mark on the local economy.

Dothan City Commissioners will officially vote Tuesday to accept a $100,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs to expand the Forever Wild mountain biking trails from 10.5 to 14.5 miles. According to Dothan Leisure Services assistant director Kim Meeker, construction on the project could begin in early January and conclude by June 1.

The four additional miles could attract off-road cycling enthusiasts to venture to Dothan for overnight or weekend trips, said Meeker, a mountain biking enthusiast himself. He said the 14.5 miles essentially turns into 29 if cyclists travel the path in both directions.

“Fourteen miles is about as much as you want to do in one day,” he said. “If you turn around, it’s a completely different trail.”

Meeker said clubs from Mobile, Pensacola, Anniston, and Tallahassee frequently trek to Dothan to ride the Forever Wild trails, but he is unsure how many of those people actually spend the night in local hotels. The additional miles could make the paths long enough to encourage some overnight or weekend stays — which is why Dothan’s tourism bureau, Visit Dothan, has offered to contribute $10,000 to the project to help the city cover some of its required grant match.

The additional trails will connect to the current paths at the Forever Wild property, located in western Dothan between Fortner Street and Flowers Chapel Road. The new paths will allow cyclists to view new areas of the property previously not visible while also increasing the trail’s challenge.

About two miles of the trail will be designed for low to intermediate challenges, while another two miles will offer intermediate to advanced-level riding.

“We had a public meeting to understand what the riders wanted, and about three-quarters of them were interested in a more challenging ride,” Meeker said.

Since mountain biking often is performed on narrow trails, only small trees and bushes will be removed during the expansion. Meeker doesn’t expect any of the current trails will have to be closed during the construction of the next phase, but it could be possible.

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