New equestrian trail serious business for enthusiasts

LAWRENCEVILLE - Vickie Summers has seen the trend, and in her own way, she joined in.

"Everybody's getting into walking," the Loganville woman said. But instead of taking to trails on her own two feet, Summers hoofs it on Marquesa, her horse.

This weekend, Gwinnett County officials will celebrate the trail trend, which has led to several county passive parks - ones designed for walkers, cyclists and horse riders instead of baseball or soccer players.

The event Saturday will be held at Little Mulberry Park, as commissioners officially open the second phase of the 890-acre park.

But Ronnie Wiley said he took to the new equestrian trails the first day they opened last fall.

"It's a good trail," he said. "You'd think you were in the mountains."

Both Wiley and Summers said they preferred the Little Mulberry Park equestrian trail to other horse paths at Tribble Mill and Yellow River parks, because they have to share the paths with bicyclists at the latter ones.

"I like to go over there because I meet new people," Wiley said of his trips with horse Midnight to Little Mulberry, three miles from his Auburn home. "It gives people a place to go."

Summers said she meets walkers on the horse trails occasionally, but she doesn't mind. "They were talking about how great and peaceful it was," she said of her last meeting. "It's great to be able to go close to home."

Saturday's event will begin at 8 a.m. with an equestrian ride. For that event, people can bring their horses to a Mineral Springs Road entrance to the park.

At 8:30 a.m., a two-mile Trail Mix Fun Run/Walk begins at the Hog Mountain Road entrance. The entry fee is $10 per person or $25 for a family of up to five people, and includes a commemorative T-shirt.

Following a 9:30 a.m. celebration ceremony, activities will be held throughout the park, including hayrides, a petting zoo, pony rides, make-and-take crafts, a rock-climbing wall and nature programs. While the activities are free, food concessions will be for sale until 2 p.m.

The county government will host a shuttle to the park from Hamilton Mill United Methodist Church, located at 1450 Pine Road, to the 3900 Hog Mountain Road park entrance. A third park entrance is on Fence Road.

For more information, call 770-822-8840 or visit www.gwinnettparks.com. To sign up for the run/walk, which is sponsored by the Gwinnett Parks Foundation, call 770-339-0203.