The Dirt

A will to do the exceptional …

The Hogan siblings got their first taste of mountain bike racing on a bright and early morning in April 2021. They with a handful of other children participated in an event designed specifically for children 3-8 years old. Several of the children completed the short grassy race course on strider bikes. Parents celebrated their children’s completion of the race as if each child had just hit a homerun in a world series. It was a fine day for the Hogan children, and a fine day for the community at large. That April morning demonstrates for us how a simple machine called a bicycle and a small decision by county officials can encourage an enormous amount of impact.

The events at Brown’s Mill were part of a much larger ensemble of events that included the Tour of Coweta Century, and Rock & Road Festival. More than 250 participants raced in multiple categories at Brown’s Mill and the event had a significant amount of financial impact on the community. Families who participate in these types of events often spend much of the weekend at the venue and around town.

Prosperity is often measured by dollar signs in a community. Coweta County is like many counties in Georgia and is realizing explosive growth. Companies continue to locate their facilities to the area to better deliver their products to the end consumer. Families with deep roots in the area are cashing in and liquidating the family homestead to residential and commercial developers. Financial prosperity is rampant in our community. However, this story is not so much about how many cups of coffee we’re sold over the weekend, or how much financial impact was realized by welcoming 500-600 athletes to town for the weekend.

This story is about the Hogan siblings and our communities’ will to do the exceptional for them and the community at large. This story is about decisions that result in a different type of prosperity.

Several years ago, Brown’s Mill was identified by local officials as a good venue to build shared use trails. The success of Cochran Mill Park in Palmetto is well documented and demonstrates the demand for natural soft surface trails. Shared use trails are not a new invention. The Appalachian Trail is a natural soft surface trail. Most of the trails found in Georgia State Parks are soft surface trails. Cochran Mill has welcomed 12,000+ visitors annually since 2018. Atlanta SORBA had been instrumental in building out the trail system at Cochran Mill. Coweta County, Bike Coweta and Atlanta SORBA teamed up together to advocate, design, and construct the trails at Brown’s Mill. Ten months later, the Hogan siblings would be racing.

Prosperity is measured in many ways. April 17-18 was a day of prosperity in a different way. The day provided a wealth of joy … an abundance of shared experiences between hundreds of participants. The day was an exceptional day for the community. Coweta County welcomed hundreds of families from as far as five states away. Brown’s Mill left a smile on many faces all while encouraging families to get some exercise and enjoy mother nature.

The health and wellness benefits of passive greenspace and shared use trails are well documented in many national studies. Brown’s Mill has become a refuge for many users on a weekly basis. The park serves a diverse group of users. Summer camps, organized trail runs, youth mountain bike clubs, and events like the mountain bike races have all become reality because of the determination and will of local advocates. Some users simply appreciate the opportunity to walk the trails, enjoy the forest and escape the daily grind.

So what do we do with all this enthusiasm? What do we do with the facts? Brown’s Mill was for years a quiet little park that many Cowetans did not know about. With a little advocacy and a modest investment by the County, it’s become one of Coweta’s most popular parks. The demand for passive greenspace has always been there. Cowetans were simply traveling somewhere else to get it.

Do we as a community have the will to do the exceptional? Do we have the will to identify and pursue other opportunities for passive greenspace? It may require the conservation of public or private properties with no expectation of financial gain. It may require that outside developers and investment companies set aside space for parks and/or funding for those amenities as a requirement of selecting Coweta for their projects. Are we as a community willing to require that of developers at the risk of alienating the developer? Brown’s Mill has quickly become an exceptional little place … and exceptional story. Do we have the will to learn from this local lab experiment, and submit to the idea that more greenspace is needed in Coweta and act on these findings?

Do we have the will to do the exceptional for the Hogans and every other family in Coweta County? Coweta is rapidly growing. Our greenspace is not. Some of the smaller children struggled to finish their race on Sunday. Through the encouragement of their parents and the cheers from their fellow participants, they showed the will and determination to do so.

The three year olds participating in the event on April 18 could very well be in our community for the next 80 years. There were participants at the weekend events as old as 78. To say the choices we make today will last a lifetime is legitimate. It all comes down to will to do something exceptional.

Do we have the will to encourage our local leaders to pursue opportunities and funding for greenspace?

Enjoy a trail today!
Chris Doane
President, MTB Atlanta