By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The Wood County Park District is planning to open up the Slippery Elm Trail to a new type of traveler – one that may not sweat as much as they pedal against the wind.
On Tuesday, the park commissioners voted to go along with Ohio House Bill 250, which allows electric assist bicycles on bike paths that were previously off-limits to anything with an electric motor. The bill permits electric bikes that hit top speeds of 20 mph, but not the more powerful type that go as fast as 28 mph.
The reason for allowing the electric bikes is simple, according to Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger.
“It opens the trails up to a whole different segment of population,” those who cannot ride regular bicycles, he said.
“This will give them an opportunity to get out there again,” Munger said. “Let’s see how it works out.”
The electric bikes work using a small battery motor, said chief park ranger Todd Nofzinger.
“I don’t see it being an issue at all,” Nofzinger said. “It’s electric, so it’s totally silent.”
The bikes are quite expensive, Munger said, costing two or three times as much as a regular bicycle. So they will likely be rather rare on the bike trail.
“I don’t see any issue with this as well,” he said.
The electric bikes will not cause hazards due to their speed, since many bicyclists can pedal as fast as 20 mph, Munger added.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the board heard a report from Eric Scott, coordinator of the stewardship program, which focuses on managing the park land. The stewardship staff analyzes the park land and then creates plans for the different properties.
The park district has a wide range of land types to care for, Scott said, including woodlots, prairie and wetlands. One of the biggest problems in maintaining the land is intrusion by invasive species of plants, like garlic mustard. Also affecting the land is climate change and encroaching development, Scott said.
Options for controlling the sites include prescribed burns of the prairies, mowing, weeding, cutting, herbicides, pesticides and water. The district also works on seed collecting and planting.
The district relies on volunteers to help with projects like seed cleaning and planting, Scott said.
The stewardship goal is to maintain economic prosperity while sustaining the natural systems.
“We want to please the public, but we also want to protect nature,” Scott said.
In addition to working with plants, the stewardship program also works to introduce quail and honey bees. The public is encouraged to “adopt-a-garden,” and monitoring programs keep an eye on native plants, streams and butterflies.
In other business at meeting, the board accepted the lowest bid of $20,648 for a ranger utility vehicle, from Honda East in Maumee. The vehicle is ideal for operating on the Slippery Elm Trail, Munger said.