By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The Wood County Park District may invest some money to attract kids of that awkward age to use their county parks.
The park district already has programs that appeal to young children and adults. But the difficulty is getting older kids and young adults to view the parks as a place to spend time.
So the draft budget for the Wood County Park District has a tentative $200,000 set aside for an off-road mountain biking training area and a trail off the Slippery Elm Trail.
Earlier this fall, 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 trail.
Park naturalist Craig Spicer presented a proposal for both concepts. He explained 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 in the woods 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.
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 had already agreed 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.
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.
Neil Munger, director of the park district, added that the district has been talking about a mountain biking trail for quite a while.
A total of $725,577 is in the draft budget for capital improvements at 16 county parks in 2019.
Following is a list of the tentative amounts budgeted for capital improvements at each of the county parks for next year:
- Buttonwood, $2,000 for miscellaneous items.
- Cedar Creeks, $4,000 for playground safety surfacing and miscellaneous items.
- Fuller Preserve, $500 for miscellaneous items.
- William Henry Harrison, $9,700 for installing playground, trash can holder, open shelter repairs and miscellaneous items.
- Park District Headquarters, $2,000 for miscellaneous items.
- W.W. Knight Preserve, $12,000 for deck railing and miscellaneous items.
- Otsego Park, $5,000 for installing playground and miscellaneous items.
- Wood County Historical Center, $4,000 for archery range entrance sign and miscellaneous items.
- Zimmerman School, $2,500 for windowsills and miscellaneous items.
- Slippery Elm Trail, $226,377 for trail repairs, shelter in North Baltimore, pump track and bike trail, and miscellaneous items.
- Baldwin Woods, $6,200 for split rail fencing, park entrance sign, kiosk, trail construction and miscellaneous items.
- Carter Historic Farm Park, $27,900 for central air condition in house, water purification system, lean-to roof replacement in main barn, prairie seeding, floor repair in main barn, and miscellaneous items.
- Bradner Preserve, $5,900 for garage repairs, water purification system and miscellaneous items.
- Beaver Creek Preserve, $3,900 water softener and RO system, and miscellaneous items.
- Reuthinger Preserve/Native Seed Nursery, $24,700 for lean-to concrete floor, watering well drilling and miscellaneous items.
- Sawyer Quarry Preserve, $388,900 for interpretive center renovations, interpretive center displays, water purification system, naturalist office renovations and furnishings, and miscellaneous items.