Park board considers bike course

LISBON – Approval was recently given to pursue developing a bicycle jumping course at the Hellbender Bluff Park in Madison Township.

The Columbiana County Park District board, which oversees the 750-acre nature park, will seek a $24,350 grant through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to develop a “pump track” racing course for bicyclists.

The oval-shaped dirt track would be 200 feet by 100 feet, with moguls, or small hills, for the bicyclists to “jump” over as they ride around the course or race each other. The decision was made after the board posted a poll on Facebook, and 75 percent of the respondents indicated they were in favor.

The vote to pursue the project was 4-1, with Tom Butch casting the lone dissenting vote. According to the meeting minutes, he preferred Hellbender remain a nature park as it was originally intended.

Mike West, who was one of the board members to vote in favor, believes the bicycle course is a compatible use for the park. “We want people to use the park. That’s what the park is for,” he said, when contacted for this story.

In addition to hiking and fishing, the park is open for public hunting. West said the trail would be located close to the parking lot, and they would work with the state in creating enough of a safety zone around the course where hunters would not pose a threat to any bicyclists riding around the course.

“My opinion is we have more than enough acreage to absorb putting in a track,” he said, noting hikers and people with their pets regularly walk the area now during the various hunting seasons and there has never been any problems.

“I think if we get the grant and pull this off, it would be the only one around” in the county, West said.

As for security, the park is self-policed for the most part, but West said they would likely ask the county sheriff’s office to “stop up there once and awhile.”

He said during hunting seasons the state game warden for the county also maintains a presence, visiting Hellbender occasionally.

“There has been hardly any negative response. It’s all been positive,” West said of the proposal.