OHIO — Several communities in southeast Ohio and mountain bike enthusiasts are celebrating a USDA Forest Service decision to develop an 88-mile trail system on Wayne National Forest's Athens Ranger District.
The “Baileys Mountain Bike Trail Project” is located between the cities of Athens and Nelsonville in Athens County, one hour southeast of Columbus, Ohio.
The new system will include trailheads that link to existing mountain bike trails off forest via the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway, creating a network of trails totaling 136 miles.
“This project was born by many voices who feel it will contribute to the economic, social and physical wellbeing of the area,” said Athens District Ranger Jason Reed. “We want people to travel here to enjoy all that the Wayne National Forest and southeast Ohio have to offer.”
In 2016, members of the Athens Bicycle Club and the Wayne National Forest came to an agreement to pursue development of the trail system. The club is committed to leading the fundraising effort, as well as directly participating in the construction and long-term management of the system.
“Having the connection to the communities and installing a new community asset can help with health and make the forest accessible to a larger population,” said club member Peter Kotses.
Much of the survey work for the project was completed by six Ohio University interns who gained valuable work experience in their fields of study. They inventoried for animal, plant and cultural resources.
“It has been our goal to work more closely with the Wayne National Forest,” said Dr. Bob Frank, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He agreed that there was a “real alignment” between the university’s need for student internships and an existing demand for researchers at the forest.
While funding has not been secured for the trail system, forest leadership is working with the local community, interest groups and Forest Service headquarters office to pursue public–private partnership funding opportunities. The project has been selected as a pilot under the Conservation Finance program with an organization called Quantified Ventures.
The total cost for the trail system is estimated at $3 to $6 million. Construction can begin as soon as funding is acquired.