It was a wild year for area trails but a good year for Wild Trails, the local nonprofit that directs money to building and maintaining wilderness path projects through the region.
With Randy Whorton, a co-founder of the organization, stepping in full-time as executive director last April, Wild Trails raised more than $31,000 and did a lot of good work in 2011.
"It was certainly our biggest year ever," Whorton said Wednesday. "And there has been nothing done like this around here in the past. There were some big dollars thrown at certain projects -- Lula Lake and the Cumberland Trail, for instance -- but that always was for trail building. As far as trail maintenance and advocacy, there has been nothing like what we do."
Wild Trails not only dispersed trail-work funds to various groups but also provided considerable labor for their projects. That was in addition to the substantial work Whorton and Wild Trails helpers gave to repair trail damage from the storms that wreaked such havoc in 2011.
"Like with River Gorge Trust, we give $2,000 and then give them free labor for developing trails. The same with Southern Adventist University," Whorton said. "That $2,000 goes a lot further when Wild Trails is behind it."
Both of those donee entities are among the hosts in the Rock/Creek Trail Series of races that Wild Trails oversees for much of its fundraising. The university in Collegedale will be the site of the next race, a six-kilometer called the Southern 6 on Feb. 19, and the Rock/Creek River Gorge race follows on March 24 with 10.2- and 6.5-mile options.
"It's the races that bring in our money, so it's not Wild Trails, it's the community," Whorton said. "We had a 40 percent growth in participants in the series from 2010 to 2011. I just read that in the second half of last year, trail running per capita was the fastest growing sport in America, based on number of races available and the total entrants."
All the 2012 races in the eight-event series except two are open for registration, including the signature StumpJump on Oct. 6 that officially finishes the points season and even the Lookout Mountain 50-mile and 10k event on Dec. 15. The only ones not taking entrants yet are the Upchuck 50k on Nov. 10, which starts the 2012-13 season, and the new Still Hollow Half Marathon and 10k set for Aug. 4 at the Enterprise South Industrial Park.
The Still Hollow race replaces the Greenway event in the Rock/Creek Series.
Another new trail race this year is the Savage Gulf Marathon set for March 17, starting and finishing at the Stone Door area. It is not part of the Rock/Creek series, but Wild Trails is helping the organizers.
"It's put on by the Tennessee Forest Rangers Association to raise funds for state parks," Whorton said. "It's for a good cause and it's going to be a great event, and we're looking forward to it."
The Rock/Creek series has a new points system that gives more credit for the length of the race and a runner's time in relation to the winner. Previously winners got 1,000 points for races under marathon length and 2,000 for those 26.2 miles and longer, but the new system gives separate totals ranging from the 6k to 50-mile distances.
Rock/Creek Trail Series races
Feb. 19, Southern 6(k) and Kid K
March 24, River Gorge Race
May 19, Scenic City Trail Marathon/Half Marathon
June 15-17, Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race
Aug. 4, Still Hollow Half Marathon/10k
Oct. 6, StumpJump 50k/11-miler
Nov. 10, Upchuck 50k
Dec. 15, Lookout Mountain 50-miler/10k