Bridge boosts bike events at Oak Mountain State Park

Published 3:31 pm Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Oak Mountain State Park has a new addition just in time for its busiest month.

A bridge over the spillway at the park was recently completed through a $100,000 Recreation Trails Program grant.

The grant will also add 25 miles of biking trails, which would give the trail an Epic rating. An Epic designation is deemed the highest rating by the International Mountain Bike Association, which means the park could hold bigger and more biking events.

The city of Pelham supplied engineering and clerical assistance, while Shelby County and the Birmingham Urban Mountain Pedalers provided labor, funds and assistance.

“Why am I excited about this? I don’t ride a bike,” said Pelham City Council member Bill Meadows. “But this brings bicyclists from all over the country to our city. They stay in our motels and they eat at our restaurants.”

Many of those cyclists, and triathletes, will descend upon the park during the month of June as the annual BUMP ’N Grind will take place June 5-6, the XTERRA Southeast Championship will take place June 12-13, the Buster Britton Memorial Triathlon will take place June 12 and the Alabama Sports Festival Triathlon will take place June 19.

“The month of June is covered for us,” said Emily Cohen, Oak Mountain State Park naturalist.

The annual BUMP ’N Grind will feature twisting trails, the new expanded trail and bridge and the infamous descent through Blood Rock, which bears its name due to the difficulty and danger riders face when going down it. Bikers can ride in four different classes, including 29 miles for the professionals and 8.5 miles for the junior riders.

The annual XTEERA Southeast Championship will also challenge even the best-trained athletes with a 30-kilometer mountain bike ride, a 10-kilometer trail run and a 1.5-kilometer swim.

Cohen said she expects approximately 600 participants in the BUMP ’N Grind, up to 800 people in the Buster Britton Memorial and 1,000 athletes in the XTERRA.

In addition to having the nearly 2,500 athletes participate in the June events, Cohen also said many of them come into the area up to two weeks early so they can train.

“Many of them come for two to three weeks prior to the event to train and to get used to the park layout and the climate,” Cohen said.

The BUMP ’N Grind athletes have already begun testing out the new trail, and Meadows hopes the enthusiasm and word spreads quickly about Alabama’s best two-wheeled course.

“It’s going to be like the Talladega Superspeedway for bicycles,” Meadows said.