Public-private partnership brings first public mountain bike trail to Franklin

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As Franklin increasingly becomes a melting pot of people coming from around the country for work opportunities, hobbyists with a taste for the outdoors and thrills can now find respite in the center of Cool Springs at the first public mountain bike trail in the city. 

City of Franklin officials, Columbia State Community College administrators and avid mountain bikers gathered Thursday at the new trailhead behind Columbia State’s Williamson campus off Liberty Pike to celebrate the opening of the first two legs of the trail network.  

This project was a true public-private partnership, as the community college, city of Franklin, Gamble Design Collaborative and nonprofit Outdoor Encounter worked together to create a half-mile beginner’s trail and a more advanced three-quarter-mile trail. 

“If you know mountain biking at all, there’s flow trails, there’s downhill; this is more your technical-type trails,” said Rebecca Wynd, founder and director of Outdoor Encounter. “With all the rock that’s here, we’ve been able to basically create a playground for mountain bikes. We do have a set trail that we’ve built and designed, but over time, we just know there’s going to be a million more options for people.” 

And that’s exactly what the Franklin Parks Department has planned. Parks Department Director Lisa Clayton said they’re looking at extending the current 1 1/4 miles of trail into about 6 miles to provide a slew of options for beginners to expert bikers. They hope to weave the trails into Liberty Park. 

This goal coincides with a focus of the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen through its list of planned capital projects — connectivity and walkability. 

“The Board of Mayor and Aldermen has truly embraced connectivity, trails, sidewalks in the work that they’ve been doing for the past few years, and I applaud them for the vision that they have for that quality of life,” Franklin Mayor Ken Moore said.

These trails represent the first Parks project fully funded by the Parkland Impact Fee, which encourages residential developers to incorporate plans for green space in their developments or otherwise implements a per-unit fee to go to the Parks Department. Thus, this trail system was built in conjunction with the Mosby Cool Springs Apartments on Knoll Top Lane. 

Not only do these trails provide an outdoor exercise outlet for nearby residents or workers, but Columbia State students can benefit as well with the trailhead stationed just behind the campus’ main buildings. 

Columbia State President Janet Smith explained the nearby trails will give students and faculty a place to exercise, whether by bike or by foot, and a place to escape into nature by themselves or with friends, promoting not only physical but also mental health. 

She said the trails also allow for increased educational opportunities with increased accessibility to natural resources and historical features, like a Civil War era wall that runs behind the trailhead. 

“Our faculty can use it from an instructional standpoint, whether it’s having to do with plants or the soil science,” Smith said. “Even as we’re talking history, I think there’s so much history in the fence and how it’s constructed and its relationship to the Civil War.” 

Wynd encouraged attendees to continue to engage in partnerships like the one that created these trails.  

“I just want you to look around and see what can happen when public, private, nonprofit organizations come together and work together,” she said. “It took a huge group of people and a lot of time to create what you’re about to enjoy out here.” 

For more information about the Franklin Parks Department, visit franklintn.gov. To learn more about Outdoor Encounter, visit outdoorencounter.org.

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