News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

March 24, 2014

From ‘wilderness’ to mountain bike trail

Vigo Parks board approves plan for 16-mile, diverse riding course near Fowler Park

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County Park Board Tuesday unanimously voted to approve the design of an elaborate 16-mile mountain bike park trail network in the 300-acre “wilderness area” at Fowler Park.

Kara Kish, superintendent of the Vigo County Park and Recreation Department, said the county department can pay for the design of the park, estimated at about $44,000, and would solicit quotes from design companies.

However, raising the estimated $845,000 needed to construct the park, once designed, would be the responsibility of the bike park’s advisory council, Kish said.

Oakland, Calif.-based Hilride Progression Development Group conducted a feasibility study, providing an outline of where trails could be developed and the trail’s economic impact.

“We believe the trail will average 150 riders per day and believe there is case study to show the park can attract 60,000 visitors a year,” said Nat Lopes, the trail and bike park designer/planner and owner of Hilride Progression Development Group, via a telephone conference call with the park board.

Lopes said mountain bike park events can attract an additional 10,000 visitors to special mountain bike events and races. The park would make a $1.1 million economic impact on the county from meals, overnight stays and other purchases, he said.

Klain Tanner, a member of the bike park advisory council, told the park board the concept of the proposed Dale R. Griffin Memorial Bike Park is to be a no-pay area, open to any person with a mountain bike of any skill level from novice, family-friendly trails to skilled trails.

“There would be numerous opportunities to hold bike events to generate money to support the trail,” Tanner said.

The bike park would include lower speed log rides and ladder bridges to higher speed terrain features that include jumps, drops, wall rides, step ups, step downs and 20-foot mega-pump sections that will allow riders to pump over large areas of 20- to 40-foot high rolling terrain without pedaling.

Anchoring the trail system would be a proposed 7-acre Landing Zone Terrain Park complete with a dual slalom track, free ride dirt jumps, pump track and a kids track, which would create a highly visible, centralized hub of activity for riders accessing the trails and riding areas. This area would be tailor-made for competitions, events, demonstrations, coaching and instruction.

Tanner said a website and a Facebook page will be opened to spread word of the park and to help raise funds for its construction.

The bike park would have a memorial at its entrance from Bono Road in honor of Griffin, a U.S. Army Sgt. killed in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb in October 2009. Fowler Park was named after Capt. Eugene R. Fowler, the first Vigo County person killed in the Vietnam War.

• In an other issue, the park department is expected to close this afternoon on the acquisition of about 822 acres, located north of Dallas Road. The county will pay $50,000 for the land, formerly owned by Pfizer Inc., with half of the funding coming from the Wabash Valley Community Foundation.

The parks department will take a year to design the area, which would include items such as a dog park and fishing areas, with the area expected to open to the public sometime in 2015.

• The park board postponed a decision on implementing a program to accept credit cards for rentals of park shelters or a park log barn. Kish had suggested the county absorb a 2.5-percent credit card fee, as the county’s would likely have more rentals from credit cards. Board member Julie Hart said she opposes the county absorbing that cost, as it is usually passed onto the individual using a credit card.

• The board also postponed a decision on funding the repair of a dam at Fowler Park. Kish told the board that county commissioners did not agree to help fund the project from EDIT funds, which would place the full repair cost of $600,000 onto the park department’s budget. The board could split the project into a two-year repair; however, that could mean the park’s lake would be drained for two years, plus a third year to regain its original depth.

That, Kish said, would certainly reduce park revenue as campers would not go to the park.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.

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