SORBA Woodstock is a non-profit chapter of IMBA/SORBA serving the Woodstock and Canton Georgia area. All members of the board of directors are volunteers. We hold chapter meetings quarterly and you do not have to be a member to attend. Missed a meeting or want to see what's covered at meetings? Check out our meeting minutes page.
Board of Directors
President - Jay Wilkes firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice President - Angela Chambers email@example.com
Secretary - Bob Pinkowski firstname.lastname@example.org
Treasurer - Leigh Pruitt email@example.com
Trail Director - Kelly Pruitt firstname.lastname@example.org
Bike Patrol Director - Will Merrill email@example.com
Board Appointed Leaders
Trail Ambassador - Dave Saigh firstname.lastname@example.org
Webmaster - Jeff Murchison email@example.com
eNews Coordinator - Bob Pinkowski firstname.lastname@example.org
Trail Coordinator - Carl Wells email@example.com
Chapter Journalist - Lisa Randall firstname.lastname@example.org
Brief Summary of SORBA Woodstock
The Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association, Woodstock, GA Chapter (SORBA-W), was formed in March, 2000, by a group of local mountain bikers. SORBA-W was formed in part due to the closure of trails at Boling Park in Canton, GA to off-road cycling. With the mission to preserve, protect, and educate the community, SORBA-W's primary focus has been advocacy, mountain bike trail development, and trail maintenance in Cherokee County. As an extension of the main SORBA/IMBA organization, SORBA-W also assists with rides, festivals, and the advancement of off-road cycling throughout the southeastern United States.
Currently SORBA-Woodstock has relationships with local land managers such as the City of Woodstock, City of Canton, Cherokee Recreation and Parks Authority, Department of Natural Resources, Boy Scouts of America, Cherokee County Water Authority, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Allatoona. These relationships provide mountain bikers with opportunities for trail access while protecting the future of existing trails. SORBA-W's primary role is to organize volunteer workers to perform trail layout, design, construction, and maintenance at Blankets Creek and Taylor Randahl Memorial Mountain Bike Trails. SORBA Woodstock's leadership is made up solely of volunteers.
The Blankets Creek Mountain Bike Trail System in Cherokee County on Sixes Road ( I-575 exit 11), is comprised of six trails: Mosquito Flats (Beginner), Mosquito Bite (Beginner plus), Dwelling Loop (Intermediate), South Loop (Advanced) Van Michael Trail (Advanced) and Quehl Holler (Expert Downhill). The Dwelling Loop was opened on June 3rd, 2000. The South Loop and Mosquito Flats were opened in the fall of 2003, Mosquito Bite and Van Michael Trail in June 2008 and the newest trail Quehl Holler in 2010.
Taylor Randahl Memorial Mountain Bike Trails, located just east of Blankets in Olde Rope Mill Park is comprised of two trails: Explorer (Beginner and Beginner +) and Avalanche (Intermediate). Avalanche opened in 2010 and Explorer in 2011.
Come join the group and secure the future of mountain biking in Cherokee County!
The Detailed History of Blankets Creek and SORBA Woodstock
Written By: Ellis Alexander
The Blankets Creek Mountain Bike Trail System has become one of the most heavily ridden mountain bike trails in the U.S. Twelve years ago it existed only in the imagination of a few determined mountain bikers. What transpired in the following years to create this outstanding opportunity to enjoy the outdoors on a bike is an impressive story. It is about selfless but driven individuals who worked hard to forge cooperative agreements with government agencies and sought the support of SORBA to form a chapter that allowed them to be custodians of the trails they were determined to build.
Alex Nutt is known to many in the mountain biking community as the author of Mountain Biking Georgia, an authoritative guide to mountain biking trails across the state. You may also know him for the tandem mountain bikes he rides and sells. But, you may not know that he was the pioneer who orchestrated the cost sharing agreement between the U.S. Corp of Engineers (COE) and the Cherokee Parks and Recreation Department, now known as Cherokee Recreation and Parks Agency (CRPA). In 1998, Alex contacted the COE and met with them about mountain biking trail locations. In a few meetings with them they identified areas that were well-suited to build a mountain bike trail system. David Grabensteder, the Allatoona District Director at the time, suggested Blankets Creek as a good place to start. Alex was concerned that David was skeptical of what SORBA was capable of but that didn’t distract him from his goal. As President of SORBA from 1998-2000, Alex knew that the dream he and other mountain bikers had would come true if they could gain access to the COE land.
Alex obtained a map of Blankets Creek from the COE and spent several days with Mike Maness walking the tract and laying out the trail system. Jay Franklin also helped with this time consuming process, as did Wayne Comacho, Walt Bready, and some other local riders. Later, Dave Hamilton, JoAnne Nardone (Dave and JoAnne would later marry), Mike Maness and Alex finished laying out South Loop. Alex laid out the original directional loop trail design with some suggestions from Mike Riter, who with his wife Jan was IMBA’s Trail Care Crew at the time. The plan was then submitted to the COE and on July 22, 1999 Alex and the COE executed the original cost sharing agreement that had SORBA building and maintaining the trials, and the COE providing a parking lot and access. Jay Franklin put Alex in contact with Keith Hammond, the CRPA Director. Alex met with Keith and showed him what they had in mind and CRPA entered the deal as a partner just before the trail opened, providing maintenance and parking lot signage.
Part of the agreement with the COE was the understanding that mountain bikers would no longer ride at Boling Park. This had been a point of friction for quite some time between mountain bikers and the government agencies with jurisdiction over that park, including the COE.
But, building mountain biking trails at Blankets Creek would require a significant commitment of time from volunteers willing to dig their way through the woods along the banks of Lake Allatoona and Blankets Creek. The leaders for that effort emerged from the trail flagging crowd. The RAMBO Chapter of SORBA was very interested in building and maintaining the Blankets Creek trails. The first work party was held in October 1999 and fifty eight hearty souls attended. As they walked into the woods for the first time to build trails, it began to rain. The group stopped and the leaders told everyone that given the nasty weather they could leave if they wanted. They all looked at each other for a moment, but not one person turned to head home. They were there for a purpose and a little rain wasn’t going to get in their way.
Alex Nutt recalls Dan Thornton of Free-Flite Bicycles being there with a chainsaw. Alex had to rush ahead of Dan and the rest of the group to make sure the flagging was correct because they were working so fast.
After the initial work party in the fall of 1999, work parties continued about every two weeks, drawing unusually large numbers of volunteers. The first Trail Director for what would later become the SORBA Woodstock Chapter was Dave Hamilton, who became involved at the second work party in 1999. Dave, Walt Bready and Keith Bennadetto would often work on the trails every day between work parties, especially in the weeks leading up to opening day. During this period Dave became affectionately known as the “Trail Nazi”. While the trails were being built some enthusiastic riders would sneak into the property and try to ride before the trails were open. Whoever they were, they probably still remember their encounters with Dave who made it abundantly clear with a few choice words that they should leave the premises and wait until the trail was completed. One of the early riders who became acquainted with Dave in such an encounter was John Hicks. John quickly became part of the core group who built the trails at Blankets Creek and later became President of the chapter.
A trail building effort the likes of what was occurring at Blankets Creek needed leaders to organize and drive the project to conclusion, especially people who lived nearby. And ongoing maintenance would require the stewardship that could only come from a local chapter of SORBA.
Hunter Ramsey and Melanie Pfautz were the right people at the right time. Hunter managed the Happy Trails Bike Shop in Woodstock and Melanie worked at Atlanta Cycles. Melanie also served during this period as Secretary of SORBA. Hunter would occasionally visit Atlanta Cycles to pick up parts and as they talked the two of them decided that they would take on the task of forming a SORBA chapter to be responsible for the building and maintenance of the trails at Blankets Creek. At a meeting of the Board of Directors in the summer of 2000, SORBA recognized the new Woodstock Chapter. Soon after the Chapter was formed Hunter was elected the first President.
The Dwelling Loop was the first trail built because it was closest to the trailhead. The trail was completely built by hand with no machine cutting. The chapter didn’t own a machine so volunteer labor was the only means of constructing trails. Initially, the plan was to make it a beginner trail, but as it was built it evolved to an intermediate track. One work party in the spring of 2000 would have a lasting effect on the people who worked that day and the name of the trail. Will Leichnitz was a volunteer who worked hard and attended work parties often. On March 25, 2000, he was hand cutting trail when he suddenly collapsed. He suffered a massive heart attack and despite 45 minutes of CPR administered by the first Bike Patrol Director at Blankets Creek, James Hughes, Will died. What was originally referred to as the Middle Loop was named in Will’s honor. Dwelling is actually an acronym for all his family members’ first names.
The Dwelling Loop was built in sections that were not connected. This was done to discourage riding before the trails were completed. Toward the end of the construction phase the sections were joined and the trails were opened. Opening day was June 3, 2000, on National Trail Day.
Blankets Creek was part of a larger informal plan to create mountain bike trails on several COE areas along Lake Allatoona. Blankets Creek was the test, a chance to show the COE what SORBA could do. And SORBA exceeded the COE’s expectations. Alex remembers discussing the parking lot size with David Grabensteder of the COE, and how surprised he was when Alex told him 80 parking spaces was okay for starters, but that we’d need to have some sort of option to expand the parking area as the trail system grew. The parking lot was overflowing on opening day. David was very surprised and impressed with what SORBA had done with the construction of the trail system.
In the early years, riders had to bike or walk through Blankets Creek to get to the Dwelling Loop. Eventually, an old dock was moved from the YMCA where John Hicks worked and was used to bridge the creek. Unfortunately, with every storm that brought high water to the creek, the bridge would get washed downstream and would require several strong bodies to haul it back in place. A more substantial bridge replaced the wooden one thanks to Ken Nicks finding an old truck bed that was less likely to be pushed downstream by flood waters.
Construction of the South Loop was begun in 2001 and would last for over two years. All but the last one half mile of the South Loop was built by hand. Designed to be a step up in difficulty from the Dwelling Loop, it offers steeper climbs and more technical trail features with rocks and roots, compared to the smoother track on the Dwelling Loop. The South Loop was opened in September 2003.
The last half mile of the South Loop was built using a Dingo, a walk behind earth mover that was the first machine tool introduced at Blankets Creek. The Dingo was initially co-owned by SORBA Woodstock and two other chapters. The current Trail Director Charlie Shultz completed that section of the trail and honed his skills with this new tool. Charlie quickly became a master trailbuilder and has contributed leadership to the construction of reroutes and new trails through the years. The commitment by Dave Hamilton and Charlie to IMBA trail building standards has helped Blankets Creek become recognized as one of the best built trails in the country.
Near the end of construction of the South Loop, Mosquito Flats was built in about two months using the Dingo. This beginner trail was an important addition to the trail system, allowing children and beginners an excellent opportunity to develop their skills before taking on the more difficult Dwelling Loop.
The original flagging of Blankets Creek included three loops—Middle Loop (now Dwelling), South Loop and the North Loop. Over the years the North Loop has earned the name Area 51, referring to its “off limits” status for mountain bikers. After the South Loop was completed it didn’t take long for the SORBA Woodstock Chapter to begin thinking about building trails in Area 51 that would be a more challenging ride than the South Loop. The idea turned into action during 2003 when the discussions and the approval process with the COE began. After a lengthy review process, the plans submitted to the COE were finally approved in September of 2007 and work began in earnest. SORBA Woodstock decided to significantly shorten the time to build these new trails by hiring a trial building company to machine cut the majority of the trail. Combined with the traditional volunteer work parties, this new trail opened in early May 2008. To accomplish this, a $50,000.00 fundraising campaign was started in 2007 and work parties were held at least twice per month beginning in September 2007 until completion. This project also included the addition of 1.5 miles to the beginner trail showing the continued commitment by the SORBA Woodstock Chapter to provide new riders the opportunity to learn and develop their mountain biking skills.
For several years SORBA Woodstock leadership recognized the need for a free ride area to attract that growing segment of the mountain biking community. In 2011 an expert trail, Quehl Holler, was built under the leadership of Mark Heiman. Free riders flocked to this new downhill playground with its signature wall ride.
As new trails were added and the ridership at Blankets Creek grew, the need for additional parking and bathroom facilities became very apparent. Fortunately, John Hicks and Jay Wilkes had done an excellent job of cultivating the partnership with Cherokee County, building relationships with County Commissioners and CRPA management. SORBA Woodstock’s consistently responsible stewardship of Blankets Creek had earned the confidence of their partners, the COE and CRPA. Cherokee County demonstrated their commitment to the partnership when they purchased a five acre parcel of land adjacent to the original parking lot. Construction of permanent bathroom facilities, a pavilion and bike wash station along with an expanded parking lot is scheduled for completion in Spring 2013.
A new chapter in SORBA Woodstock's history is currently being written at Olde Rope Mill Park, a City of Woodstock park along the banks of the Little River. With funding from the City of Woodstock, REI and Free-Flite Bicycles, 9 miles of trails have been added with another 6-8 miles planned on the north side of the river. A new fundraising effort is in the planning stages to provide the funds to build this trail. With this new addition, SORBA Woodstock will have over 30 miles of trails under their care.
SORBA Woodstock is what it is today due to the efforts of a large number of volunteers who love to mountain bike. In addition to those already named, there is a long list of people who have made significant contributions to SORBA Woodstock, Blankets Creek and Olde Rope Mill Park. The presidents of SORBA Woodstock since Hunter Ramsey have been Neal Nichols, Scott Gordon, John Hicks and Jay Wilkes. The leadership provided by these key players has been critical to the success of this mountain biking club. But, the many volunteers not named here who have sweated and toiled to build and maintain the trails are the driving force that has made the Blankets Creek Mountain Bike Tail System and Olde Rope Mill Park sustainable for all mountain bikers to enjoy, despite some of the heaviest traffic on any trail system in the country.
The volunteers have made the difference.
(Editors Note—This article was compiled from interviews and writings from the key players who were there at the beginning, including Alex Nutt, Hunter Ramsey, Dave Hamilton and Walt Bready. It was updated in November 2012.)