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Mountain Bikers Get Their Own Trail in the Metroparks

From the October 22, 2007 edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Arts & Life section.

Mountain Bikers Get Their Own Trail in the Metroparks

Michael Heaton
Plain Dealer Reporter

Mountain bikers in Cuyahoga County now have a trail they can call their own.

A mountain bike trail opened last month at the Cleveland Metroparks' Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation in Cuyahoga Heights. The project was in the works for four years and had to overcome substantial resistance by some outdoor enthusiasts.

Mountain bikers have been riding off-road in the parks for years, just not legally. Their favorite paths have been the bridle trails reserved for equestrians, who are not fans of the fast-moving bikes.

Both camps hope cyclists will abandon the bridle paths for the centrally located mountain bike trail.

"It's all about safety first," said Kathy King, president of the Cuyahoga County Chapter of the Ohio Horsemen's Council. "There are no horse trails where they put the new mountain bike trail. So they have their place and we have ours. We wish them well."

Mountain bikers get a bad rap, said Mike Farley, founder of the Cleveland Area Mountain Association, or CAMBA.

"Most of the resistance comes from common misconceptions about mountain biking," he said. "A lot of people motocross, thinking mountain bikes are motorcycles. Some think it's destructive to the environment. Studies have show it isn't any more damaging than hiking. Some people think mountain bikers ride fast. Some think they ride wild."

CAMBA volunteers spent thousands of hours surveying the land, designing the course, clearing brush and building the two-mile trail.

"There's a lot of consideration that goes into a project like this," said Jane Christyson, director of marketing for the Metroparks. "You have to decide where to put it, what kind of trail it's going to be. How to maintain it. There are always user conflicts in trails. Not just here. All across the country. Wherever you have people sharing recreational space. It's always a balancing act. People want to recreate in their own way. That's where you get conflicts."

Jim Olander is CAMBA's trail building director. He oversaw the first eight-mile mountain bike trail in Ravenna's West Branch State Park in 2001.

"The new one is a flowing, fun trail, " said Olander. "It has an easy beginner's loop. Anyone can try it without too much experience. Most of our trails are longer and require a little more experience. This a a nice single-track trail."

Both Farley and Olander would like to see mountain biking in the Metroparks expand. "This is a nice start," said Farley.

"It's purely a pilot program," added Olander. "We have to prove ourselves to the people at the Metroparks that we can do this and not have any problems."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:
mheaton@plaind.com, 216-999-4569

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