University of Montevallo opens new state-of-the-art mountain biking course

Published 12:04 pm Friday, October 27, 2023

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By BARTON PERKINS | Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO – A new state-of-the-art mountain biking facility has officially opened at the University of Montevallo following a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 26. 

The ribbon cutting ceremony brought together city, county and university officials as they celebrated the new facility, which pairs well to Oak Mountain State Park’s mountain bike offerings as more of a racing course on what used to be the city’s golf course. 

“The Mountain biking course road was a collaboration between Shelby County and the University of Montevallo,” said Scott Dillard, executive vice president of advancement, government relations and strategic initiatives at the University of Montevallo. “The university had an old golf course, near the university lake, that had really run its course in terms of how many people would play it and that sort of thing.”

UM decided that rather than maintain the golf course, it would make more sense to convert it into a mountain biking course. They accomplished this by ceasing maintenance on the golf course, and allowing local wildlife to retake the land.

“You’d be surprised how quick nature takes over,” Dillard said. “Within a few weeks, natural vegetation was already returning, but it took us about a year to get the pass cut and have it back to where it was more of a natural area.”

The mountain biking course will feature trails for collegiate and club competitions as well as a trail that will be open to the public for recreational use. 

Shelby County Manager Chad Scroggins noted that the trails, coupled with Montevallo’s new mountain biking team, should prove appealing to a new demographic of students interested in attending the university.

“Montevallo is one of our top partners,” Scroggins said. “Anytime we can increase student enrollment through a partnership with them is something that we’re looking at. In this case, the university can actually recruit their cycling teams because there’s an asset and facility.”

The course was developed through a partnership with Shelby County and the Discover Shelby tourism department and offers another venue for mountain biking enthusiasts in the Birmingham area, in addition to the trails at Oak Mountain State Park. There will be trails reserved for college and high school teams as well as places where non-affiliated and adult cyclists can ride trails.

“It really hits everything we’re looking at, which is community involvement, but also growing that population of Montevallo students,” Scroggins said.

Scroggins noted that other places in the southeast region that have similar courses have had communities that have grown in both value and numbers based on having bike trail systems, especially in Arkansas.

He went on to comment that Montevallo’s new race course, unlike at Oak Mountain or other facilities in the Birmingham area, is a true spectator race course, which adds something to the overall scene of competitive mountain biking in the area.

“It’s going to be a good training ground for the young folks; it’s going to be good to see the high school teams have events there,” Scroggins said. “We’re going to see a lot of positives from that particular facility.”

The goal is for the facility to have features such as a bike shop, washing area, storage and more to help make it a standout facility.