In the back of the Chauncey-Dover Community Park, hidden by a hill and tucked among trees, construction on the Baileys Trail System has begun.

Where the overgrown grass starts and the mowed park ends, a pool of red, muddy water guards the entrance to the dirt trail. Machines carved away enough forest floor for the Baileys to be identified by a distinct lack of trees and carpet of leaves.

Twelve miles of the Baileys will be completed by the end of 2019. At its current pace, the 88-mile trail will be finished within three years. The path will be optimized for mountain biking, but it can also be enjoyed by hikers, trail runners and backpackers.

Expected impact of The Baileys

Throughout four years of planning, the Baileys maintained three distinct goals: To create sustainable economic development, to provide residents wellness opportunities and to strengthen community pride. 

The Baileys is expected to draw between 125,000 and 235,000 mountain bikers to the area per year, according to the outcome-based capital firm Quantified Ventures, the capital firm responsible for structuring the financial plan for the Baileys. 

On average, bikers spend $52 for day trips and $234 for overnight trips. According to their measurements, the Baileys will earn a total of $40.3 million over 10 years if the trail performs as expected.

The village of Chauncey from the Chauncey-Dover community park

Danny Twilley, a professor of recreation and sports pedagogy at Ohio University, was an early advocate and a passionate leader of the Baileys project.

“Mountain bikers as a whole tend to be relatively affluent. They like to travel, and they like to eat good food, particularly local food, and they like to drink good beer,” Twilley said. “So start putting that together, and that sounds a lot like Athens and Athens County as a whole.”

According to Quantified Ventures, the Baileys is expected to increase revenue in the city of Athens by $40,000 by the end of 2026. 

The monetary gain will be reflected in the transient guest tax, a 6% tax on rented rooms like hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfasts. The city collects half of the transient guest tax revenue, which is around $200,000 a year as estimated by City Councilmember Chris Knisely (in 2018, Athens brought in $214,921). Athens County collects the remaining 3%. 

City Councilmember Peter Kotses — who is the owner of Athens Bicycle and lead community contact for the Baileys — said that in a survey conducted in Chauncey, residents did not feel the community park was safe enough for children to play in. 

The Chauncey-Dover Community Park has experienced vandalism and illegal dumping. Athens County Planner Jessie Powers believes the increased visitation due to the Baileys will ward off the dangerous activity. 

Powers also views the trails as a way to create active transportation opportunities for those that do not have cars in the area. In addition to the Baileys, a bike spur is being constructed from the 21-mile Hockhocking Adena Bikeway to the Chauncey-Dover Community Park. Through the Chauncey-Dover Community Park, visitors will have easy access to 109 miles of trail and cities like Athens, The Plains and Nelsonville. 

“I firmly believe that when you provide access to people who get out into nature that’s connected right to their communities, it transforms people. It provides mental well-being rejuvenation, it provides the sense of pride,” Twilley said. 

A portion of the Chauncey-Dover Community Park’s playground. Photo by Emily Crebs

How The Baileys became a trail

Baileys was merely “oral history” until 2015, according to Dawn McCarthy from the Wayne National Forest. The Wayne National Forest developed a recreation plan with a group of trail users — no mountain biking groups were present — to create 14 miles of trails on the Baileys in 1994. The plan never came to fruition.

Forest Supervisor Anthony Scardina invited Councilmember Kotses in 2015 to look at the plan buried in the files of the Wayne National Forest. In January 2016, the meetings expanded to include Twilley, McCarthy, the director of programs for the international bike association, Athens District Park Ranger Jason Reed and others.

One group member recommended that the group produce a master plan for the Baileys. The plan would cost $40,000; Kotses and Twilley began fundraising. 

Local businesses like Jackie O’s and Larry Conrad’s realty contributed funds for the project. Trek Bikes donated a bike retailing at $3,000 that sold $12,000 in raffle tickets. Twilley and Kotses fundraised enough money for the master plan, which, through their efforts, saw the community’s support for the project. 

The Baileys also required a design plan. Twilley estimated volunteers saved over $10,000 on the design plan. The 88-miles of trail needed to be flagged to complete the plan; for the first 36 miles, Kotses and Twilley enlisted volunteers to flag the trail, saving money that would have been spent on a professional job. 

The beginning of the Baileys Trail at the edge of the Chauncey-Dover Community Park

Twilley and Kotses coordinated the Chauncey-Dover Community Park efforts when they met with Powers at a Chauncey community meeting in 2017. Powers estimated the bike spur project that would cost $1.5 million. 

“And maybe it’s like my sensationalism of it, but I remember just being like ‘Are you kidding me?’” Twilley said. “(Powers and meeting attendees were) trying to start something and end something right at the community park and so are we. Both dealing with bikes, both about bettering the community, gaining access to the community, providing opportunities for the community and visitors.”

The Baileys required a National Environmental Policy Act evaluation (NEPA). NEPA ensures agencies look into the environmental impact of their actions before the action takes place. Ohio U students conducted the NEPA evaluation for the Baileys over the course of two summers.

Congress passed an act to allow the “Pay for Success” model to be used for recreation projects in 2016. In a pay for success model, investors take the brunt of the risk. Payers give money back to investors in varying amounts in correlation with the success of the project. 

Quantified Ventures selected the Baileys as the first outdoor recreation project to be funded through environmental impact bonds and the pay for success model. Currently, the project is looking for payors to enter into the environmental impact bonds to complete funding for the project.

The Baileys Trail at the beginning of construction

Gentrification concerns

However, Twilley acknowledged that a tourist attraction creates the risk of gentrification for the surrounding communities. 

Gentrification occurs when services are put in place to help an area, especially those economically depressed, but the residents are not able to experience the benefits of the service.  

“There’s study after study that shows that when parks and recreational resources are put in an area to benefit those tend to not have access to these types of quality resources, tend to get displaced by it,” Twilley said.

Julie Paxton, an economics professor and director of campus community engagement at Ohio U, has made the Baileys the focus of her economics of altruism class. 

Last year, Paxton’s class assessed which organizations involved in the Baileys could benefit the most from the class’ allocated $10,000 in grant money from the Warren Buffett Foundation. The class chose the Athens County Foundation to create a fund for the trail, design a website and logo and designate funds for local entrepreneurial training

“It’s possible that as a major trail system is developed, that housing prices will increase. Many people in trailhead communities rent, and so as their property values increase, their rent will increase, or possibly they would be displaced completely as commercial investments come,” Paxton said.

Currently, students are working to prepare Chauncey for the Baileys. Half of Paxton’s class is investigating gentrification and policies that can be implemented to protect the resident’s from displacement. The other half of the class is working to showcase the village’s history through a historical kiosk designed by Hilferty Museum Planning. 

The Baileys will run through former Adena Indian land, as well as salt and coal mines. In addition to the kiosk, Paxton said markers will be placed to indicate the history of the area.

“I think the reason that we’re specifically focusing on Chauncey, and both the gentrification issue and also the history, is that it’s possible that this project would have proceeded without that being taken into account. There might not have been the money through a grant for a historical marker,” Paxton said.

Rural Action, a nonprofit that works to sustainably develop the economy in southeastern Ohio, is involved in the Baileys project and applied for an ARCA Power Grant.

If received, the majority of the $1.2 million grant will go toward entrepreneurial training for the people of Chauncey. ACEnet is also involved with the Baileys project to help communities prepare for the potential impacts of the Baileys.

“I am worried,” Twilley said of the possibility of gentrification and negative impacts to trailhead communities. “But, I think the risk of those are far outweighed by the benefits that [the Baileys] can potentially bring.”

What happens next?

“By the end of fall next year, we could have 35 to 40 miles on the ground.” Twilley said. “We still have a ton of work to do. We still have to promote the darn thing and implement that.”

Twilley listed off tasks like working on the trail system’s website, creating maps and bike riding programs that allow the community to access the trails. 

“Once the trails get built, and the ribbon is cut, there’s a huge responsibility to ensure that they’re successful,” Twilley said. “And that falls on many people’s shoulders.”

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