Black Creek Trail Expansion
Black Creek Trail: An Economic Engine for Etowah County
Starting near the wedding chapel at scenic Noccalula Falls, the Black Creek Trail meanders alongside an old logging road some three miles west of Gadsden. Since its renovation in 2003, the multiuse trail has been a tourism boon to Etowah County, drawing many runners, hikers and mountain bikers to the area.
In 2017, the city of Gadsden expanded Black Creek Trail by 6.5 miles, thanks to the support of several partners. With funding from the Alabama Power Foundation, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Gadsden Runners Club and Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association, the trail has grown to cover more than 13 miles.
“And the local clubs didn’t just support financially, they put in sweat equity,” said Shane Ellison, assistant to the mayor of Gadsden. “Club members were out here raking and clearing the trails to expedite the expansion process.”
“I can say now that people have moved to Gadsden to be near these trails,” Ellison said.
The expanded trail system gives the city a place to host outdoor events, which will increase tourism. Having partnered with the bicycle association, Black Creek Trail is in the planning stages of hosting a bicycle race in 2018. Using estimates from events held by the Alabama Interscholastic Cycling League, the trail could accommodate as many as 350 racers and 1,200 total attendees – about 90 percent from outside Etowah County. Estimates project the event could bring more than $100,000 in revenue to the community.
In addition to its positive economic impact, Black Creek Trail offers healthy recreational activities. “Runners and mountain bikers have benefited the most from the additional trails,” said Ellison. “It’s been good for all our local residents who wanted to get outside and walk but didn’t have a great place to get their daily exercise.”
The trail enhances the natural beauty of the region. The contractor who designed the trail has incorporated new features but, for the most part, the trail incorporates trees and rocks from the environment. The ecological impact is minimal, and the natural environment is minimally disturbed.
The expansion of the trail will spread visitors over a larger area of trails. This will reduce the maintenance required and extend the life of the trails. It has the added benefit of decreasing the number of bikers per trail, which will decrease the likelihood of accidents. More space for visitors to explore also allows a more personal experience with nature. “It really has been a good project,” Ellison said.