Plan could reopen park trail to riders
Photo By: JOE MAHONEY/TIMES-DISPATCH
Mountain-bikers looking to pump their pedals in Henrico County might end up at Dorey or Deep Run parks if they read trail reviews on the Internet.
But according to the county parks department, Henrico has mountain-bike trails only at Dorey -- and they've been closed for several years.
That could change under a proposed arrangement between Henrico and the Richmond area chapter of the Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts.
Last week, the Board of Supervisors agreed to have the county pursue an agreement with the 80-member club to restore trails at Dorey that were closed after being damaged by Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
Richmond MORE, which has done similar, no-cost work at the James River Park System in Richmond, advocates for trails that are designed using methods that limit ongoing maintenance, erosion, tree damage and other impacts.
MORE members say the demand for trails is evident by the unsanctioned, or "social," paths that are worn in Henrico's parks.
"The proof is in the park," said Greg Rollins, trail advocacy director for Richmond MORE and a resident of western Henrico. "If the users weren't asking for it, the leaves would fall on the trail, and the trails would go back to nature."
Henrico discourages the creation of social trails in its parks, but officials say the problem is difficult to control.
Board of Supervisors Chairman David A. Kaechele said working with Richmond MORE makes sense because of the proliferation of informal trails, including at the Twin Hickory Park site, which hasn't yet been developed.
"It expands the uses of the park for different people's interests," he said. "That's what they're there for."
Many of Henrico's parks have wide, relatively-flat, paved trails for joggers, cyclists and parents with baby strollers.
But mountain bikers crave a more extreme experience.
"They don't give the feeling of being in the woods," Rollins said of the wide paths. "The closeness of the trees gives you the feeling of speed."
Several miles of mountain-bike trails were built at Dorey about seven years ago with help of a state grant.
The trails, designed for beginner and intermediate riders, are officially closed, but they've gotten some continued use, based on trail reviews posted by riders at www.mtbr.com.
Rollins said Richmond MORE doesn't endorse social trails, and he sees them as a problem in all county parks. The club had proposed working with Henrico to design trails at Dorey and Deep Run, but the supervisors agreed to proceed at only Dorey despite liability concerns by County Manager Virgil R. Hazelett.
In 2000, a mountain-biker became a quadriplegic after crashing into a ravine at Poor Farm Park in Ashland while participating in a class sponsored by Henrico. Henrico later paid $1 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the rider, Barry Fountain, according to officials.
Richmond MORE's $1 million-per-accident insurance policy covers any trails built by the club, Rollins said. If all goes well at Dorey, the club hopes to design trails at Deep Run and elsewhere.
"We feel it's baby steps," he said.
Contact Will Jones at (804) 649-6911 or firstname.lastname@example.org.