By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The Wood County Park District is hoping to hitch a ride on the off-road mountain biking craze.
On Tuesday, the park board voiced support for a proposal to create pump tracks in Rudolph and a mountain bike trail in the savanna area along the Slippery Elm Trail.
Park naturalist Craig Spicer presented a proposal for both concepts during the monthly park board meeting held at Harrison Park in Pemberville.
The mountain biking park and trail would help the district attract teens and young adults. A survey conducted earlier this year showed only 6 percent of the county park users were college student age.
All parks suffer from the same difficulty luring teens and young adults, Spicer said.
“They are one of the most finicky audiences,” he said.
According to Spicer, off-road and sport biking are growing in popularity.
“This is a good opportunity to ride that wave,” he said.
The creation of an off-road biking park in Rudolph, and a trail north of the community would also be an investment in a county park in the southern part of Wood County. Currently just five of the county’s 20 parks are south of U.S. 6.
“There’s a little bit of imbalance there,” Spicer said.
The proposed park would be located in the one-acre area already owned by the park district along the Slippery Elm Trail, just south of Mermill Road. The park board voted last month to have unused farm silos removed from the property.
A proposal created by Pump Trax USA shows a park with a “strider” track for little kids, a beginner track, an intermediate and advanced track, and a skills trail for mountain biking. The area would have parking for 30 cars, a bike fix-it station, and a covered shelter house.
“This project fits our mission,” Spicer said. “I think it will attract people for years to come.”
Maintenance of the park would be similar to the neighboring Slippery Elm Trail, since the bike park courses would be constructed of cement or asphalt.
Don DiBartolomeo, of the Right Direction Youth Development Program, told the board he would offer programming for free at the bike park. DiBartolomeo is in the ninth year of running the non-profit youth support program Right Direction, and organizes programming at the skate park in Bowling Green City Park.
“Having something like this skills track is huge,” DiBartolomeo told the board.
Toledo Metroparks has talked about such an off-road biking program, but has yet to establish one, he said.
“This would put you on the map. Nobody’s done it yet,” DiBartolomeo said.
Those working on their off-road skills could then try out their new talents in the Rudolph Savanna, located a half-mile north on the Slippery Elm Trail, Spicer said.
“The nearest mountain bike trail is in Swanton,” he said.
Spicer showed a rough sketch of how a three-mile single-track mountain bike trail could wind its way through the 50-acre savanna area.
Park staff have found no evidence of endangered plants in the savanna, and a single-track trail will cause “minimal damage” to the area, he said.
Spicer had no cost estimates for either the off-road bike park or trail, but said there are grant opportunities available.
“We’re just at the beginning of this,” he told the board.
Neil Munger, director of the park district, added that the district has been talking about a mountain biking trail for quite a while.
The park board members all expressed their support for the training park and trail.
Denny Parish, chairman of the park board, urged Spicer to move forward on the project “very quickly.”
“I’m telling you, this is a go,” Parish said.