There has been some consternation and confusion about the updates being done to existing trail areas at Stony Creek.
CRAMBA has gotten a lot of requests for trails that are more difficult, have more variety, and to have areas where you can jump your bike and get air. This desire was reflected in the survey that we had requested our Membership complete prior to the work beginning at Stony Creek. Of the trail systems in our area, Stony Creek’s rolling elevation and terrain is rather unique and best suited to these additions. It is also one of the oldest single track trail systems that was developed long before modern mountain biking suspension systems and modern trail design. One of the biggest complaints from new riders is that Stony Creek was easy to get lost in due to the spider-web mostly linear design of the existing trails. People that have been riding there for many years tend to forget how they felt about that on their first rides, especially if they went out alone. Once completed, the entire trail system will consist of a series of connected loops, making it much easier to return to the trailhead.
It has been suggested to me that the D loop, in it’s currently unfinished and unsigned state, is dangerous for new riders. Having ridden it, I understand your feelings with this assertion, but there are caveats. It is not currently completed, nor designated as “open”. There is a plan for signage that has not been implemented. Generally the most difficult trail is placed as far back into a trail system as possible. I believe that is a goal that was accomplished here.
These new trails are all safe when ridden appropriately, no different than any other trail I have ever ridden. If you are unsure about any obstacle, you should take care to look things over before you ride them hard. The long sight lines on the D loop make this relatively easy to do without needing to stop unexpectedly. These features do take an element of skill in order to be optimally enjoyed. The D loop makes much better use of the reversing grades and elevation changes of that section of the park than the Back Nine did. It also now has a lot of jumping features and drops that do not exist elsewhere on any of the sanctioned CRAMBA trails. It’s now a full loop of singletrack that ends approximately where it starts, avoiding the need to use the dull two track trails to return to the start.
Newer riders will spend more time on trails closer to the trailhead, and thus the difficulty there is much less. The portions of A and B loop that are actually difficult are completely optional, and obvious, and give riders a chance to improve their skill before moving on to the harder trails. Observationally, the oldest of the new trails have already started to become skinnier due to the natural tendency for plant growth to encroach on open spaces. This is a fact that is often overlooked because the process takes a long time. Over time, even the new trails will become skinnier as they are more worn in. The less erosion issues there are in a trail, the more they maintain a singletrack feel. In the areas of the Roller Coaster that have severe erosion issues, those sections no longer maintain that feeling.
All of the changes for the Back Nine and D Loop were detailed in the plan that was originally distributed a few years ago. Yes, the Back Nine trail that used to be there is gone. I personally will miss it, but I feel the D loop is exactly the sort of trail that was lacking in CRAMBA territory, and had been asked for the most. My goal as Chair is to provide an opportunity for every type of rider, and I believe that Stony Creek’s updates will ultimately accomplish that. The GROM loop is short and has a lot of rider skill features that I feel make up for the removal of the Skills Park that was falling into disrepair.
Loop C, that will consist of the existing Roller Coaster trail, and the Snake trail is NOT seeing this same type of “wipe clean and start over” work. The existing difficulty and terrain usage follows a lot of what would be created if it were to be created from new. Yes, there are some significant reroutes that are being done on the Coaster and Snake that are to avoid areas where the terrain could not simply be reshaped to fix perpetual erosion issues, and to enable a more cohesive looping trail. I believe the new trail will still have much of the same feel as the original when it is completed, worn in, and the plants have encroached.
Some of the work on Loop C will be done that doesn’t follow these original plans because of erosion problems that have gotten much worse from when the original plan was devised several years ago. These problems will continue to get worse if they receive no attention. The goal is to reduce the amount of necessary annual work to keep the trails in good shape, something that has overwhelmed CRAMBA’s ability to accomplish due to the accelerating nature of erosion. Yes, there are many spots where the surface of the trail will become widened during the course of the work being completed, but it will not stay this way. If there are troublesome aspects of the trail once it has been completed, I am confident the Metropark will continue to listen and allow us to make corrections and repairs.
Having ridden the Coaster last night, I can say without a doubt in my mind, that even before work has started, it is not the same trail it once was. Even compared to last year. New lines have been thoroughly worn in, and old lines I used to take are completely covered and gone. Lines to avoid rocks, and roots, and sandy areas are prevalent throughout the trail. There are lines that did not used to exist before the rocks and roots became uncovered from wear and erosion. The people I observed riding were mostly avoiding the rocks and roots, and following these less difficult lines that end up widening and changing the trail.
As a member of CRAMBA’s board, I am very grateful that the Metroparks have listened to our efforts to communicate requests and desires of what our membership has been asking for. As I’m now in my fourth year on the board, I know as well as anyone that there are some who will not be pleased by any of the changes. Your voices are not lost on me, and I wish that we were able to accommodate everyone. I remain hopeful and confident that once the entire project is completed, it will overall be a very positive change for the park, and our membership. That the Metroparks are seeing the mountain bike trails as infrastructure that should be improved and invested in is an enormous win for us all.
There is a petition that is being circulated that runs counter to what I believe are the desires of the majority of the CRAMBA membership. I disagree with the premise of this petition, as it leaves out many of the critical details, and misrepresents the actual work being done on the trails. I feel it is not in the best interests of our membership, and our mountain biking community as a whole. If you have any specific questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to me directly. My Email is firstname.lastname@example.org.