Mountain bikers seek to build Bear Creek trail

       Mountain bikers would have a chance to race, train or just have fun on a two-mile trail loop they're proposing to pay for and build themselves in Bear Creek Regional Park.
       Including specialized riding features, the trail would wind through a hilly, approximately 30-acre open area west of 21st Street and south of Bear Creek and the Dog Park.
       The area has only one official trail going through it now - an east-west, intrapark connector - but is criss-crossed with non-engineered “social trails” that are causing erosion problems, according to El Paso County Parks Planner Brian Kay. Some of these are evidently the result of people straying out of the dog park and cutting across the creek in the process,.
       “We want to build new trails that are more sustainable,” he said. “It will be a great amenity for the park - something the cycling community has been wanting for a long time.”
       One such cyclist is Jim Yount, also a board member of the area Trails and Open Space Coalition. An additional amenity he supports is a plan to use the loop for a “regular series” of regional races. “There have been races in the past, but the problem is that there aren't any trails built specifically for mountain bikes,” he noted.
       An open house to explain the trail plans is scheduled at the Bear Creek Nature Center, 245 Bear Creek Road, Wednesday, April 4 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The public is invited to drop by, ask questions and make comments.
       One issue that might come up is how exclusive the trail might be. Although the loop will not be closed to hikers or horses, the riding features that would spice it up - such as intentionally rocky areas and “whoops” to go up and “drops” to go down - might be tough on non-bikers. “There will be some features they may not want to encounter,” Kay said.
       A strong point for the mountain bikers is their willingness to pay for the project and volunteer time to build it. A cumulative $4,000 has been pledged by various cycling organizations for the initial layout, with the trail construction led by Medicine Wheel, a long-time bicyclist group that builds and maintains trails.
       Also in the works is a possible $10,000 grant through REI (a nationwide outdoor supply store) to help pay for some of the riding features, Kay said.
       Initially, Medicine Wheel had suggested a free ride area, similar to the one being built in Red Rock Canyon Open Space. “But we didn't really feel so many man- made structures would fit with the the Bear Creek Park master plan,” he explained. “So we came up with a compromise, to have more of a cross-country trail for mountain biking.”
       One intent for the new loop is to help new riders get used to handling difficult terrain. “We're trying to provide small sections where someone who is a novice mountain biker can go and learn how to ride,” Kay said. “They can use it as a little bit of a training area.”
       Street access would be off Argus Boulevard - the same way people drive to the park's grouping of fields, tennis courts, basketball courts and pavilions west of 21st Street. At the north end of the park's parking lot (north off Argus), a branch from the existing multi-use trail connects in. The new loop would use a small part of the existing trail (as shown in the graphic on Page 1).
       Kay added that the trail would be designed so that few signs of trail-cutting would be visible from the pavilion area. Most of the work would be on the north side, facing toward the Dog Park, he said.
       The conceptual idea of a mountain biking trail still has not received county approval. The open house was called at the suggestion of the County Parks Board, which “thought it was a great idea,” but wanted to see what the community thinks, Kay said.
       Yount believes the project will go through. “As long as the trails are done well, I don't think anyone around will complain there are too many trails,” he said.

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