October 2012 - Parks & Recreation - 24

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HOW WE DID IT

Parks Paradigm Shift
Community engagement key to new
mountain bike trail
BY NANCY DESMOND

C

LEVELAND METROPARKS is a 22,000-acre park district in northeast

The park district has been undergoing a strategic planning process. Consultant findings and public input called
for more active, outdoor recreation opportunities, in particular mountain
biking. Mountain bikers were a large,
underserved user group with only two
miles of legal trail in the county, and
they lobbied for several years for more
access. Historically, the park district's
experience with the local mountain
bike club, Cleveland Area Mountain
Biking Association (CAMBA), had little positive discussion or progress on
the issue of increasing opportunities.
Executive Director Brian Zimmerman faced internal and external resistance to mountain biking when he
arrived in 2009. He strategically approached the trail-building process,
changing the culture internally, providing a great asset to the community,
and building a relationship with a very
devoted volunteer corps. He aimed to
prove that active recreation was not
incompatible with the agency's conservation goals.
Cleveland Metroparks identified
an 800-acre parcel of existing wooded area for mountain biking, called
Royalview. Fears the bikes would destroy the natural area and disturb other users brought concerned members
22

Parks & Recreation

Until Cleveland Metroparks partnered with
such groups as a local mountain biking
group and the Student Conservation
Association, the region had only two miles
of legal mountain biking trails. Today, it has
nine miles of single-track trails.

of the public to board meetings questioning the decision. Cleveland Metroparks staff maintained the position
that a properly built single-track trail
could protect habitat while fulfilling
the mission to provide healthy outdoor
activities for the public.
The Natural Resource Division
played a key role in answering concerned constituents. Existing trails in

| OCTOBER 2012 | WWW.NRPA.ORG

the Royalview area were deteriorated,
as they were improperly built on fall
lines and in low areas, holding water,
exposing roots, and causing widening.
Park district natural resource staff recognized that a low-impact, sustainable,
single-track trail could help repair the
impact. Before breaking ground, they
performed an exhaustive inventory and
analysis of plants, animals, and soils to
determine sensitive areas. Trail monitoring for impact is ongoing. Tracking
the conservation of natural resources
throughout the process informed the
project.
Traditionally, staff believed that
trails should be wide and substantial enough to accommodate maintenance vehicles. As part of the culture
change strategy, Cleveland Metroparks
hired Student Conservation Association (SCA) trail builders who worked
full time for five weeks on the trail.
Since the park district staff had limited experience with sustainable, handbuilt single track, the SCA leaders were
hired as much as trainers as they were
as builders.
The SCA trail builders worked side by
side with Cleveland Metroparks crews,
teaching low-impact, hand-built technique and philosophy. To spark a regional effort, Zimmerman invited
staff from neighboring park districts

CLEVEL AND METROPARKS

Ohio hosting nearly 15 million visits in the region through a mission
of " Conservation, Education, and Recreation. " There are just over 300
miles of trails through woods and meadows, including paved all-purpose trails
along with natural surface hiking and equestrian trails.



October 2012 - Parks & Recreation

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of October 2012 - Parks & Recreation

October 2012 - Parks & Recreation - 1
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