Silt and storm runoff from roads and hills along the trail had created potentially dangerous conditions for bike riders. In fact, the Brushy Creek Tunnel located east of Rockmart, just over the line in Paulding County, had become nearly impassable due to mud deposits of half an inch or more.
“The Brushy Mountain tunnel on the Silver Comet Trail has been a mucky mess, of varying degrees, for several years,” explains Chris Pettit, one of the active volunteers who helped organize volunteer cleanup crews. “ We’ve had riders go down in the slick muck and the recent rains, of record intensity, have washed a lot of mud into the tunnel.”
Petit said the Brushy Creek Tunnel had gotten so bad, that many Cobb County and Paulding County riders were simply refusing to ride through it. With no easy path around the tunnel, many riders were simply riding up to or near the tunnel, and turning around to go back home.
“Many of us now just refuse to ride through the tunnel as the passage will leave bike and rider filthy,” he said. “ I don’t have the time to clean the bike after these trips nor do I appreciate having my back side splattered with muck.
“For the Polk County community there is a negative impact. Many cyclists will no longer make the trip to Rockmart.”
Starting in mid-May, Pettit and other volunteers began trekking to the tunnel, with shovels, hoes and other tools in tow on bike-pulled trailers. The first effort, over the third weekend in May, went so well that volunteers returned to the tunnel and to other areas of the trail on successive weekends.
A major cleanup of the tunnel occurred on Sunday, June 6. After several hours of work, volunteers managed to clean out enough mud to make the tunnel safely passable.
Several problem areas in parts of Paulding County also were fixed. These were primarily sections of trail near road crossings.
“Poor erosion control and silt accumulation were the culprits responsible for most of the problem areas,” Pettit said.
“I’d have to say that the Georgia Department of Transportation has been lax in their responsibility to manage erosion of embankments of roads crossing the Silver Comet trail,” he added. “In fact, every problem area and potential problem in the Paulding section of the trail was associated with a road bridge.
Pettit, working by himself, cleaned up mud and silt from storm runoff covering a portion of the trail at the Ga. Hwy. 92 bridge, just west of the Hiram Trailhead. He also cleaned up the Mt. Olivet tunnel – one of the many small tunnels created where the trail passes under a road or highway.
But the Brushy Creek Tunnel, being as large as it is, required teamwork and several helping hands. Most of the mud has since been cleared, and silt fences were installed along the trail to control runoff.
Another cleanup effort at the Brushy Creek Tunnel is planned this weekend. It will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday. Any help from the Polk County community will be greatly appreciated, Pettit said.