Everything you need to know
our origin story
how the trails came to be
In the early 2000’s, the Standing Boy property was transferred to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) by the Jordan Company in a part-gift, part-sale transaction. The transaction occurred as part of a larger effort to preserve natural areas along the Chattahoochee. The transaction was originally going to be with The Nature Conservancy, but was ultimately completed with DNR, largely because state funds were available for this purpose.
The property was transferred with the understanding it would be utilized primarily for outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, trail running, mountain biking, nature viewing, and similar activities. More specifically, it was understood the property would become a State Park.
For various reasons, including a lack of funding, the property was placed under an interim wildlife management area (WMA) designation. Between the time of the transfer and circa 2017, the property sat largely unutilized relative to its potential and the population of our region. During this time, Kevin Adams, a long-time mountain biker and trail builder, made attempts to get permission to build trails.
As part of these efforts, Kevin brought the possibility of trails to the attention of Blake Melton. Around 2017, Blake began an effort to build trails on the property. These initial efforts resulted in several public meetings and a State Park Master Plan, which was paid for with donations from the local community. The Master Plan called for significant development of the property, including an alpine slide, splash pad, pavilion with a full catering kitchen, an RV park, and other similar structures and amenities.
The Master Plan was not well received by the local community, which clearly desired that the property be preserved in a much more natural state. Subsequently, DNR Commissioner Mark Williams came to Columbus to meet with local supporters. Mark listened to us, and it was generally a joy to work with him.
As a result of that meeting, a gravel-parking-lot-and-trails plan was approved. The Chattahoochee Valley Area chapter of the Southern Off-Road Bicycling Association (CVA SORBA) and DNR executed an MOU. DNR built the initial 30-car lot, and the local community set about creating a master plan for the trails and raising the money to construct the trails.
In the fall of 2019, the Primary Goods and Bimini opened. Between 2017 and 2023, the local community invested thousands of volunteer hours and donated $2,500,000 to the construction of the trails. Like with so many other projects in our community, The Bradley-Turner Foundation was an early and integral donor. The Foundation pledged $100,000 before Blake had any idea where to deposit the check.
At the beginning, what became the initial board of SBI worked as an informal group, and all of the donations were run through a special project fund at the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley (CFCV). The CFCV and its director, Betsy Covington, were invaluable to our efforts, providing advice and lending the credibility of the CFCV to the project.
Eventually, SBI was formed and positioned as the primary nonprofit for the funding of the trails and discussions with DNR over the management model. The initial board of SBI was comprised of Blake Melton (Chair), Hank Moore (Secretary and Treasurer), Gardiner Garrard, Jack Hughston, Reggie Luther, Will Peek, John Turner, and Keith Wills.
Upon the formation of SBI, SBI and CVA SORBA executed a MOU regarding their individual roles with regards to the property, with the intent that property be presented to the public as “Standing Boy Trails.” Part of the goal was to avoid any of the inside-baseball, behind-the-scenes complexity regarding how SBI and CVA SORBA would interact to construct, maintain, and manage the trails. But make no mistake, SORBA was and is integral to the success of Standing Boy.
Through several unforeseen twists and turns, a consensus developed around the current management model, which was approved late in 2022 and implemented in 2023.
how we operate
The management model is built on the foundation of individual agency and the belief that local communities should be empowered to maximize the value of their shared resources. The goal of the management model is simple: put the local volunteer and nonprofit community in the best possible position to marshal resources to maintain and manage the property over the long-term in a manner that maximizes the benefit of the property to our region.
For various reasons, we believed it would be difficult for the property to receive the necessary resources within the DNR ecosystem. On the WMA side, how could it consistently complete with properties like the Fall Line Trace WMA’s or Blanton’s Creek. And on the State Park side, it seemed similarly likely (and correct) that parks like FDR would always receive priority. And because of the property tax freeze, the City did not have the means to invest in and manage the property.
Rather than complain about realities we didn’t have the power to change, we decided to figure out a solution. And with significant and sustained effort over a number of years, we managed to secure the current management paradigm.
To effectuate the management paradigm, DNR entered into an Intergovernmental Agreement with the City, and then the City entered into a Management Agreement with SBI. The end result is that SBI
- has sole responsibility for the trailhead and trail system (there is not government assistance) and
- is able to charge and collect a nominal parking fee, which creates a steady stream of revenue to fund maintenance and management.
Very importantly, part of the vision is that, over time, the revenue will grow to the point that it will fund more than mere maintenance and management. More specifically, the parking fee will help fund the third prong of SBI’s mission: leverage the natural beauty of the Preserve and the trail system to
- support sound forestry management and ecological practices on the Preserve,
- foster healthier, happier lives through physical activity in a natural environment, and
- promote understanding, appreciation, and stewardship of nature.