By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — A new opportunity for outdoor recreation is on its way to Elkhart County in the form of the area’s first-ever dedicated mountain bike trail.
According to John Marquardt, president of the Northern Indiana Mountain Bike Association (NIMBA), plans for a new mountain bike trail at Bonneyville Mill County Park have been kicking around his organization since the early 1990s, though it wasn’t until about 18 months ago that the plans actually became a reality.
“We started initially talking to folks about building the trail, and we started working with the Elkhart County Parks Department to get an agreement and that type of thing,” Marquardt said. “Then over the last four to five months, a couple of guys with our group have been laying out and flagging the trail, and that has now been completed. So on April 7 we’ll be having our official ground-breaking ceremony for the new trail.”
Beginning at 9 a.m. at the Briar Patch Shelter located on C.R. 8 in Bonneyville Mill County Park, the ground-breaking ceremony, which is open to the public, will be followed by a volunteer workday from 1 to 3 p.m. to begin actual construction of the trail.
“If people would like to become involved and actually volunteer to work on the trail, the trail work day starts at 1 p.m.,” said Jerry Good, marketing coordinator with the Elkhart County Parks Department. “However, in order to volunteer, it is mandatory that they attend a tool and equipment training session, and that begins at 10 a.m. Basically what they’ll be working with out on the trail is just hand tools, so if somebody would like to come help out they should wear cloths suitable for outdoor work and bring a pair of gloves, but all the tools they need will be provided.”
According to Good, once completed the trail will be approximately six miles in length and be located primarily in the area of the park known as the South Farm, which is an area between C.R. 8 and C.R. 108.
“It’s a great location out there,” Good said. “There is a lot of nice varying, kind of rolling terrain, with parts of it open and parts of it wooded. So you have a lot of diversity in the landscape that you’ll be traveling through.”
Marquardt was quick to agree.
“For Elkhart County, there really isn’t something on this scale to ride mountain bikes on,” Marquardt said of the trail. “People in Elkhart County initially had to go down to places like Warsaw or up to Michigan for their mountain biking, so we though it’d be a good thing to have something over in Elkhart County where our members can ride. And it’s a great location. The terrain is a nice, rolling terrain, which is something that we really like to have for mountain biking.”
In addition to the April 7 work day, Good noted that NIMBA will be holding additional work sessions throughout the spring and fall, most likely for at least the next two years, in order to get the trail fully completed.
“The volunteers will be coming in for the next couple years to work on the trail, but hopefully they’ll be able to get a few of the sections opened up next year,” Good said. “NIMBA is starting at the Briar Patch Shelter area near where the Bonneyville sledding hills are at. They’ll start there, and as soon as they complete a loop of the trail, and it has been approved by the parks department, then that section will open up. Then as they keep working on it, they’ll open up other sections.”
As for the 2015 completion date, Marquardt said he is cautiously optimistic that the trail will be completed within that two year period, but added that weather and other factors could possibly end up pushing that completion date out further.
“We’re thinking 2015, but it may go faster, and it may go slower,” Marquardt said. “It’s hard to predict these things until you actually start digging. Some people are very optimistic, but I try to be realistic.”
As for those wishing to volunteer at future NIMBA work days at the park, Good said visiting the NIMBA Facebook page is the best way to find future dates and times.
“Once at the page, there will be a section on there that lists the different work sessions,” Good said, “and they’ll be able to find the dates right on their. NIMBA will have a training session for all the new volunteers at the beginning of each work session, so if they can’t make it out to the work day on April 7, they still have plenty of opportunities to help out with the trail.”
For more information on the Bonneyville Mountain Bike Trail ground breaking ceremony and trail work day, contact the Elkhart County Parks Department at 574-535-6458. Additional information on the Northern Indiana Mountain Bike Association can be found online at www.nimba-bike.org.