As an avid mountain biker I got excited when I saw reference to the start of Ohio Bike week (June 6 thru 15) but it turns out that one man’s bike is another’s motorcycle and Ohio Bike week is actually a big time motorcycle rally in Sandusky. It’s only a couple of hours away so if you’re a weekend warrior hop on your hog and get your motor runnin’ up to Sandusky, it really does look like a cool event. For the rest of us people-powered riders there still seems to be good news lately as bike plans are kicking up some dust and getting built, including here in Kent.
Actually, so far this year has been a washout for us mountain goat trail riders in northeast Ohio. I didn’t realize how much snow/rain we must have had but the trails have been a mess. And I don’t mean a little mess — mountain bikes were made to handle mud bowls — I’m talking about La Brea Tar Pits kind of mud that is for all practical purposes unrideable.
God knows we have tried to ride but we were overcome first with frustration with having to carry the bike more than we could ride it, and then guilt for the obvious damage our spinning tires were doing to our favorite trails. The only option has been doing what mountain bikers really don’t want to do, load up the van and head south for dryer pastures. Fortunately southern Ohio trails have been in better shape so it looks like I’ll be a regular down at Mohican State Park until the monsoon season ends in northeast Ohio.
Besides the weather, there’s been good reason to be encouraged as a bicyclist. I noted with great interest the release of the AMATS Bicycle and Pedestrian Report for 2030. The Report projects the bikeway and pedestrian needs of the region between now and 2030. The intent is to develop a regional network of interconnected bikeway and pedestrian facilities that tie the communities in our region together. The idea is to create a regional network that links residential neighborhoods to jobs, shopping, schools, parks and other destinations.
The report notes that there are currently 92 miles of bikeways in our region but in the next 20 years that number is planned to grow significantly. And when you look at where the new bike trails are being proposed Kent will feature prominently as a potential hub connection between the significant Metro Parks trails to the west/north and the Portage Hike and Bike Trails to our east/south.
Kent literally should be right smack in the middle of it all which is obviously great for bikers but I’m also hoping it becomes a significant new asset for us to market our community with and helps create that new eco-friendly economy that we’re looking for.
See for yourself:
To Read The Full Report, Click Here.
Here’s a closer look at just the Portage County Hike and Bike Trail Network:
And even closer to home, in August the City staff will take to Council a draft bike plan specifically for Kent for their consideration. This draft would begin to show how Kent will take advantage and link up with the regional network being proposed in the 2030 Report. The draft Kent map that Council will consider looks something like this:
Since we’re taking it to Council it’s important to remember that none of this is approved yet; it’s just ideas built around existing proposals and plans. That being said the pink-dashed section titled “The Portage” that runs along the river from Middlebury Road to Fuller Park and from Lake Street out through the old rail yards should be under construction this summer (click here to see the update of this phase of the project).
Meanwhile, here’s how us mountain bikers are also hoping to tie into the 20 year plan too:
(CAMBA is the acronym for the Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association)
CAMBA believes our park systems should work together to construct a network of world-class, single-track trails for hiking, walking, trail running, skiing, and mountain biking. We believe this regional trail network should be at least one hundred miles in length and should be interconnected using the towpath trail.
Our proposed trail network is different than the existing towpath trail and paved all-purpose trails that can be found in most of the area parks. Single-track trails are narrow with an unpaved, natural surface. These trails can be found throughout our area parks, but very few are world-class. World-class single-track flows through a forest or meadow, takes advantage of scenery, is sustainable, withstands typical area weather, and is appropriate for multiple user groups of all ability levels.
This project is feasible and can be completed in less than three years. The cost of building a 100 mile network of world-class trails is less than $5 million and requires no land to be acquired or facilities to be built. There are even some trails already in existence, but they will need attention to become world-class trails.
This project will benefit our region economically by retaining residents of a key demographic, attracting new residents, and attracting visitors to the region. The project will help the quality of life in area by promoting healthy lifestyles and it will improve our image by demonstrating that Northeast Ohio is an exciting, progressive place to live. Also, this project demonstrates that we are serious about creating and supporting the recreational opportunities that young, talented, and educated professionals desire.
CAMBA believes we are in a unique position to create a world-class trail network in Northeast Ohio. We believe our park systems should work together to construct a network of world-class single-track trails for hiking, walking, trail running, skiing, and mountain biking. We believe this regional trail network should be at least one hundred miles in length and should be interconnected using the towpath trail.
One hundred years ago, the leaders of this area saw the need and value of outdoor spaces for recreational purposes. As the area grew, they had the foresight to set aside a massive, interconnected green space at this region’s heart. Like our lakefront, this asset is unique and represents a competitive advantage for our region. Our proposal for a world-class trail simply builds on that earlier vision by allowing our region to leverage this competitive advantage and benefit our economy. The land is already there, the park systems are established, and the trailhead facilities (e.g., parking lots and restrooms) already exist. There are even some trails already in existence, but they will need attention to become world-class trails.
We believe this unique project would make bold statement about our region. Developing a 100 mile network of world-class trails in an urban area such as Northeast Ohio would send a message to residents, potential residents, and visitors that we are serious about creating and supporting the recreational opportunities that young, talented, and educated professionals desire. We believe a world-class, multi-purpose trail would attract this younger demographic to our area as well as keep those who are already here. And it would do so at a minimal cost.
According to a recent report by the Brookings Institution, Chattanooga was the nation’s most polluted city in 1969 and one of only 18 U.S. cities with a population of more than 100,000 to lose more than 10 percent of its residents during the 1980’s. Today, Chattanooga is often referred to as the “Boulder, Colorado of the East” and the city is growing at a healthy pace. The report cites “focusing on assets” (such as Chattanooga’s waterfront) as a key factor in the city’s turnaround. one of Northeast Ohio’s assets is our extensive green space between Akron and Cleveland. A way to focus on this asset is to develop a world-class trail within this green space.
What makes a world-class trail?
Cross-country, single-track trails are narrow, unpaved, natural-surface trails through forests and meadows. While there are already hundreds of miles of such trails throughout many of our area parks, almost none of them are world-class. This is not a fault of our region; it is typical of the vast majority of trails throughout the country. Most trails develop socially with little planning or thought to trail quality. Over time, they are adopted by a park system and become a formal trail.
Most people know what a trail is, but few have seen or experienced a world-class trail. World-class trails share a number of important characteristics:
Flow. A trail that flows is a trail that follows the contours of the land without abrupt turns and overly steep climbs/descents. They allow a hiker, a trail runner, or a mountain biker to maintain a rhythm over a distance without making dramatic changes in speed or direction.
Scenery. Our area park systems are blessed with many rich vistas, flowing streams, and open meadows. A world-class trail enhances these natural assets by allowing users to appreciate them while at the same time maintaining controlled access around sensitive habitats.
Sustainable. Trail design is the key factor to sustainability and the techniques for sustainable trail design are widely known in the parks and recreation field. Additionally, these trails are narrow and utilize a natural trail surface, so their impact on the land is minimal.
All-weather. Our weather in Northeast Ohio can be unpredictable, but that does not mean that our world-class trail needs to be at the mercy of this weather. Using good trail design and construction techniques, we can make our world-class trail withstand most weather. In the United Kingdom, the “Coed y Brenin” mountain bike trails are built in an area with an average rainfall of over 100 inches. They never close because they are designed and built with the area’s weather in mind.
Multiple-use. A world-class trail network provides opportunities for hiking, walking, trail running, cross-country skiing and mountain biking. Equestrian use can also be incorporated, but this would require more robust construction in many areas and would likely increase the cost. All of these user groups co-exist happily in other parks across the nation and there is no reason they can’t co-exist in Northeast Ohio.
Suitable for all ability levels. World-class trail networks are designed to be utilized by everyone from families with children up to the most advanced hikers and mountain bikers.
Draw visitors and keep local dollars local
There is no doubt that a 100 mile network of world-class trails will draw visitors to our area. They may not substitute their trip to Moab, Utah with a trip to Cleveland, but it will certainly attract visitors from places like Columbus, Buffalo, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Indianapolis. A 100 mile network of trails will give visitors more than enough trails for a weekend getaway which will include a stay at a local hotel, meals at local restaurants, and other dollars spent at local businesses. In addition, those that would typically leave the area on a weekend in search of world-class trails will now be able to stay local and spend their dollars here. The economic benefit will be real and it will be significant.
For example, in just six months, Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park (located on Cleveland’s west side) contributed to 500 hotel nights at a single area hotel. This significant economic impact exists, even though Ray’s appeals to one small niche within the off-road cycling community. In comparison, the appeal of a 100 mile world-class trail is much wider and the economic benefit is potentially much greater.
Promoting healthy lifestyles
In addition to the many economic benefits the trail would provide, it would also promote healthy lifestyles among area residents. There is no question we have a serious obesity problem in our society today. There is also no question that hiking, running, and cycling have significant health benefits. Creating a world-class trail that appeals to large numbers of people will help promote healthy lifestyles in our region.
Include Boston Mills/Brandywine
Ski resorts such as Whistler in British Columbia are having tremendous success with downhill and freeride mountain biking in the summer, allowing them to operate year round. We already have Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park (the only indoor mountain bike park in the world) right here in Cleveland. Why not work with Boston Mills/Brandywine and incorporate downhill and freeride mountain biking into the vision? This would directly benefit our regional economy. Imagine if our local ski resorts could reap peek season profits all year round!
Intangible benefits for our area
Once our world-class trail network is built, we will need to tell people about it by marketing it to area residents, potential residents, and visitors. Imagine if we were on the cover of Outside magazine as one of this country’s great places to live? What if visitors walked into the Cleveland airport and saw a big banner with mountain bikers on our world-class trails? Imagine the positive impact this would have on Cleveland’s image. The intangible benefits produced by this marketing effort would be significant.
A world-class trail network of 100 miles could be constructed for less than $5 million and be completed in less than 3 years. No land needs to be acquired and no additional facilities need to be built. A single-track trail typically costs $15,000 per mile to build. Using those figures, 100 miles of trail would cost about $1.5 million for construction. Estimated costs for planning and design fees, signage, and miscellaneous expenses would be another $1.5 million. Add 50% to the total (just to be safe) and the total cost of 100 miles of world-class trail is less than $5 million. A veritable bargain when compared to many other projects undertaken by our area park systems. When you consider the economic benefit to our area as well as the intangible benefits, this $5 million represents a fantastic value.
Our region is in a unique position to develop a world-class trail system of 100 miles or more that is easily accessible to millions of area residents. This world-class trail network will help retain existing residents, attract new residents, draw visitors, and benefit our regional economy. The cost is minimal and the land and supporting facilities already exist. With a coordinated effort by our area park systems, a world-class trail network can be built in a short period of time with an immediate benefit to our area economy. Compared with other efforts in the region, this project represents a “quick-hit”. While this trail is not a panacea for all the issues our region faces, it does represent a quality of life improvement that we urgently need and that is well within our reach.
Highlights of the Bicentennial Bikeways Plan:
- Build a Downtown bike station where commuters could change clothes and store bicycles.
- Install hundreds of public bike racks.
- Connect the Olentangy Trail to the Alum Creek Trail with 14 miles of bike lanes and paths.
- Add a 12.6-mile bike corridor from the Main Street bridge along W. Town Street to an alley that parallels Sullivant Avenue to the south. It would connect with the proposed Camp Chase Trail at Georgesville Road and continue west to meet the southern leg of the Ohio to Erie Trail.
- Add signs and striping and improve pavement on Milton Avenue to link two sections of the Olentangy Trail across W. North Broadway.
- Mark 5 miles of Downtown alleys with striping and directional signs.
- Add 1.8 miles of bike lanes to Rt. 161 between Sawmill and Linworth roads.
- Mark 1 mile of bike lane on Lockbourne Road between Livingston and Frebis avenues.
- Design a share-the-road education campaign for cyclists and drivers using N. High Street between Downtown and Morse Road.
- Build a 3-mile bike trail in Big Run Park.
- Finish a 4-mile section of the Alum Creek Trail from Ohio Dominican University to Innis Park.
- Add 1.5 miles to the Scioto Trail from Berliner Park to Grove City.
- Add 2 miles to the Big Walnut Trail.
Sources: City of Columbus, Alta Planning + Design ( www.altaprojects.net/columbus)
Make N. High Street friendlier to bicyclists.
Build a Downtown bike station where two-wheel commuters would be able to change clothes and park their bikes.
Those are some of the ideas in an ambitious 288-page plan issued last week by the city. But there is a lot of work to be done before Columbus becomes a biking utopia.
“We have something on paper now,” said Ira Weiss, 61, an avid cyclist from Pickerington. “I want to see that in asphalt. I want to see that in concrete.”
The 20-year plan has a total estimated cost of $167.6 million.
About $20 million is required for the first phase, the Bicentennial Bikeway Plan, which has a target completion date of 2012. That money would come from the city’s capital budget and the Bicentennial bond package, which will be on the November ballot.
“That is what we are aiming for,” said Mary Carran Webster, the city’s assistant public service director.
“Will we get there? That depends on voters in this bond issue and future bond issues, donations and getting federal funding.”
Some improvements are scheduled to happen this year, such as:
• Convert Milton Avenue in Clintonville into a bike boulevard by resurfacing, adding pavement markings and other amenities. That will connect two sections of the Olentangy Trail between Northmoor Park and Clinton-Como Park. Milton still will be open to motor vehicles, but bikes will be the preferred mode of transportation.
• Install 50 bike racks throughout the city. Some already have been added in the Short North, and the county is expected to install 21 racks around the new Downtown ballpark when it is completed.
• Institute a share-the-road campaign on an 8-mile stretch of High Street between Downtown and Morse Road. Bike lanes aren’t expected to be part of that plan, at least not initially, because the city can’t afford to give up valuable street parking. There will be share-the-road street signs.
Education is a major part of the plan, which seeks to have sport-utility vehicles and Trek road bikes living in harmony.
“We want everybody to learn to peacefully coexist and respect one another,” Webster said. “We want motorists to respect bikes as legitimate modes of transportation. At the same time, we want bicyclists to follow the rules of the road.”
The location of the Downtown bike station hasn’t been identified. Not only would commuters have a place to change and store their bikes, but residents and tourists would be able to rent bikes.
One of the biggest goals of the bike plan is to tie the area’s trail system to neighborhoods and streets that will have bike lanes or bike signs.
An example is the Broad Meadows Boulevard bridge, which opened this month and connects neighborhoods east of the Olentangy River to the Olentangy Trail, one of the busiest in the state.
Bob Luce drives from his home in Dublin to the parking lot at Antrim Park about 5 miles away. From there, he hops on his bike and rides the Olentangy Trail about 6 miles to Ohio State University, where he works as a computer programmer.
Luce, 57, would like to see wider shoulders on roads and three-lane streets with the turn lane in the middle.
“Those are perfect for bikers because bikers can ride safely and motorists don’t get angry because they can go around,” he said.