Some residents say a patch of woods behind the Morrison YMCA is the last forest in Ballantyne, and they worry about how long it will be there.
For two years, a group of Ballantyne residents who enjoy mountain biking have built and maintained trails on the property: 91 acres owned by Mecklenburg County near the corner of Community House and Bryant Farms roads.
The property officially is called Ballantyne District Park, and the county recently spent almost $2 million developing part of it into four sports fields and a bathroom and shelter.
Much of the rest remains wooded, with a creek running through it, and when the weekend weather is nice the trails can be filled with mountain bikers, hikers, families and people walking dogs.
“You wouldn’t believe it’s in Charlotte,” said Luis Martinez, a member of the Charlotte Mountain Bikers club and of the group that maintains the trails. “It has great ecosystems and huge trees. You really feel like you are in the mountains.”
Rod Fritz, project manager for Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, said that when the county develops trails, the trails typically are built on nature preserves or greenways.
“To have 100 acres that’s isolated somewhere that has a system of trails or bikeways, I don’t know if we have that in our system,” Fritz said.
Martinez said Ballantyne District Park has about 3.5 miles of trails. He and a group of friends, including several Ardrey Kell High School students who ride mountain bikes, have studied topography maps and built trails that follow fall lines and avoid areas prone to flooding.
While many of the trails are designed for hiking, the mountain bikers plan to install an area where bikers can work on balance, cornering, braking and endurance – skills that will make them competent riders on any mountain biking trail.
They don’t want to confine the system to only mountain bikes, however.
“We don’t want this trail just for us,” said Alex Phillips, a mountain biker and trail maintainer. “It’s more to give back to the community.”
The group fears Mecklenburg County will continue developing the property over the trail system, and they have been in touch with Park and Recreation officials and hope to talk to conservation groups about preserving the wooded property.
“We told them we are devoted to helping to maintain these trails,” Martinez said.
Fritz said the master plan for Ballantyne District Park was developed in 1996. So far, the county has developed two phases, including the sports fields, which should open later this year.
The third phase calls for 12 tennis courts, a 200-car parking lot, two basketball courts, a walking trail and an in-line skating rink.
However, there is no funding for future development of the park, Fritz said. Rules for tree and watershed buffers have changed since 1996, and the master plan is so old than any plans for further development would involve community input.
The trail maintenance crew plans to continue to build up the trails, keep the woods clean and work with the county to preserve the last woods in Ballantyne.
“We want to ensure the longevity of the trails,” said trail maintenance crew member John Brinsfield.
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.