Last week the City of Atlanta celebrated a new program at the Southside Park mountain bike trail system as a part of the Thrive Outside Atlanta initiative. Through grants, donations, and support from various groups and stakeholders, 20 mountain bikes are being made available for youth and volunteers to ride and experience the trails.
Thrive Outside is an initiative of the Outdoor Foundation designed to make outdoor recreation more inclusive and accessible so that it becomes a lifelong habit for more Americans. Daisy Mugford of the Trust for Public Land was one of the key drivers behind the Thrive Outside Atlanta project at Southside Park.
“Through a generous donation from Hydro Flask, we were able to pull this together to bridge the gap between our youth of color in Atlanta and mountain biking,” said Mugford at an event for the Thrive Outside last week.
The first mountain bike trails at Southside Park opened in 2016 thanks in large part to the effort of MTB Atlanta, a chapter of the Southern Off-road Bicycle Association (SORBA). Over the past five years the group has continued to expand the trails, and today the in-town park boasts about seven miles of singletrack organized into three loops rated for beginner, intermediate, and advanced riders.
At the newest Thrive Outside Atlanta program kickoff last week, Atlanta Parks and Recreation Commissioner John Dargle noted, “This location was the first mountain bike trail system in our city of Atlanta parks. After today, kids and teens, family and friends will be able to use a bike or ride one and take advantage of this tremendous gift.”
The Thrive Outside Atlanta program at Southside has numerous supporters including non-profits like the Outdoor Industry Association, the Trust for Public Land, the South River Gardens Community Association, and MTB Atlanta. The Atlanta Parks and Recreation Department is both a supporter and beneficiary of the program, thanks to the non-profit partners and corporate sponsors like REI and Hydro Flask.
South River Gardens Community president and 46-year neighborhood resident Shirley Nichols was an early supporter of trail building at Southside park. She was there many years ago when the massive baseball field complex was built at Southside and witnessed its usage for ball games slowly decline over time. Bike trails seemed like a good use for the steep backside of the park.
“I never expected anything else […] beyond the bike trail. But to know that we can get the kids in southeast Atlanta involved, that we’ve got entities that are interested enough to come out and provide the meals for the children to be able to come out here and learn how to ride [and] have bikes available to them, is more than we can imagine, really. So just to say thank you is not enough.”