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Northeast Ohio's mountain biking enthusiasts hack their way through brambles, brush, and red tape to build their trails in public parks


Vivian Goodman
The winds of December whipping through the bare branches of our parks and forests don't scare mountain-bikers one bit. Many are still riding. Most are busy building the trails they'll enjoy in the spring. Others are negotiating the trickiest path of all, the National Park system's bureaucratic maze :
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The sign with a red X through the bicycle is  at the head of most trails in Summit County's 14 Metro Parks. Bikers are only allowed on paved surfaces. But Summit Metro Parks Chief of Planning Dave Whited says they are considering letting mountain bikers build a trail as an experiment. Whited says its likely that trail would be restricted to mountain bikers only. But Mike Farley, founder and Advocacy Director of the Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association says his group can build sustainable trails that  hikers, and equestrians could also use. Farley says with encroaching development and the loss of parklands it's better for trails to be shared.
Ruess Griffiths of the Medina County Chapter of the Ohio Horsemens Council gives Duster a snack. Griffiths acknowledges competition among park users but has been supportive of the mountain bikers'trail-building efforts. He's glad the Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association posts etiquette rules on its website about bikers ceding right of way to equestrians because he has had encounters with bikers who operated unsafely around horses.
This is a single track trail created by the Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association at the Cleveland Metro Parks Ohio and Erie Canal Reservation. CAMBA's vision is for a 100-mile trail network throughout Northeast Ohio.
Jason Reinhardt, Medina County Representative for the Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association, takes a breather after a hard day of work building the new single track at Reagan Park. CAMBA always brings along plenty of protective goggles and gloves for the volunteers.
Pink construction flags are laid down along the proposed route.
This sign at the Ohio and Erie Canal Reservation gives riders guidance about trail etiquette and safety. Mountain biking can be a solitary way of experiencing nature but there is also plenty of camaraderie as well as safety in group rides.
Some mountain bikers like the challenge of bumping over rocks and branches but many also enjoy the serenity of a smooth ride on a cleared path.
Mike Farley founded the Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association in 2001. He is also CAMBA's Advocacy Representative. Farley says a 100-mile network of trails throughout Northeast Ohio would cost an estimated $5 million dollars and benefit the region by providing recreation for the young, educated professionals the area wants to retain and attract.
The Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association volunteers arrive at Reagan Park. Trail Building Days are scheduled every other weekend through the fall and winter. They start early in the morning and end at 1 p.m. Lunch is always provided.
Trail Building Director Jim Olander always gives a safety talk at the start of every trail day. Some of the implements the mountain bikers use are forest fire fighting tools adapted for their needs.
Dana Paul has been mountain biking for 15 years. He enjoys CAMBA's group rides but also likes to ride on his own as he's doing today in the Cleveland Metroparks Ohio and Erie Canal Reservation.
Mike Ryba is the Treasurer and a member of the Board of Directors of the Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association. Ryba says volunteering to build trails is the next best thing to riding and talks about it with his high school students in Hudson as an example of the importance of "giving back"  to the community.
Paul Stoehr, Deputy Superintendent of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, has had several meetings with mountain bikers who want to build single track trails. He says other national parks have allowed it and he is not currently opposed to it, but management policies of the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior require that special park-specific regulations be developed before uses such as hang gliding, snowmobiling, or offroad bicycling can be allowed in parks. The National Park Service also requires that the superintendent determine that any new form of recreational activity will not cause unacceptable impacts. Stoehr says a request is pending to fund a study of the potential impacts of mountain biking outside of the multi-purpose trails where it is now permitted in the CVNP.

Related Links & Resources
The Ohio Trails Partnership

The Ohio Horsemans Council

Metro Parks Serving Summit County

The International Mountain Bike Association

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park

The Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association

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