Home City A ‘Disneyland’ for mountain biking: The Baileys Trail System has opened

A ‘Disneyland’ for mountain biking: The Baileys Trail System has opened

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The woods of the Chauncey-Dover Community Park are quieter now. They no longer rumble with machines carving away earth for a bike trail. Hikers can hear each bird sing, each cicada buzz, the cracks of sticks falling from trees and the occasional rustle of a woodland creature running by. 

But the peace is often interrupted by the whirl of mountain bike tires on the freshly carved path. The bikers dart around the trail’s turns and crest small jumps in the trail. Some parts of the trail are flatter, straighter and smoother, while others wrap around hills with ravines looming below. If those turns are taken too recklessly, the bike’s tires and chains grind as the rider attempts an abrupt slow down. Too fast, and the biker could topple down the ravine into tree trunks and branches.

The Wayne National Forest officially opened the Baileys Trail on May 29. On a humid Saturday morning, the Chauncey-Dover community park is already filled with hikers, bikers and runners. A typical weekend morning sees 30 cars with license plates from Ohio and nearby states. 

Amy Renner, the mayor of Chauncey and a member of the Outdoor Recreation Council of Appalachia, said she’s been very excited with the number of individuals visiting the trail. In April, before the trail officially opened, Renner was surprised to see as many as eight cars at the park. 

“For us, that was so surprising because we’d never seen that many people at the park before. But now, it’s just grown. There’s always somebody up there on the trail system,” she said in a phone interview.

According to mountain bikers Chris Harper and Morgan Jones, the first 14 miles of the Baileys Trail offers a less technical but incredibly fun mountain biking experience. 

“The trails around Columbus are very technical, so they have tons of roots and rocks and stuff like that you have to roll over. These are like perfectly smooth, banked turns. It’s like a different kind of thing, but it’s super fun,” Harper said. 

As Harper and Jones were describing the Baileys to this reporter, another biker overheard and called the trails “Disneyland.”

Harper lives in Powell, Ohio, and Jones lives in Lewisburg, West Virginia. Jones was visiting family in Marietta, and Harper had heard about the trail from the Columbus-area mountain biking community. The two friends decided to meet up at the Baileys Trail, ride, then get lunch in Athens city with another friend. 

Some mountain biking trails have steep elevation gains, where bikers climb uphill for half the ride and downhill for the other half, which Jones rides in West Virginia. The Baileys Trail consists of undulating dips and turns, which Harper and Jones said bikers can ride fast on. 

“It puts a smile on your face because you’re just flying,” Jones said. 

The trail has different difficulty levels, with a beginner loop at the start of the trail in a meadow-like area covered with Goldenrod flowers. But despite more difficult sections, Harper and Jones said the trail was suitable for beginners without high-end mountain bikes.

“This would be a great trail system for anyone that wants to try mountain biking,” Jones said. “An entry-level bike would be perfect for this. You don’t need the best breaks, you don’t need the best suspension because it’s all so smooth.”

The Baileys Trail System has gained traction in mountain biking communities, with its main form of advertisement being social media — Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages showcase sections of the trail and trail updates as well as “Humans of the Baileys,” Humans of New York style posts highlighting trail users.

“We haven’t done any paid advertising, which is another really interesting part of how word has gotten out,” Renner said. “It’s really just word of mouth and people hearing through the grapevine that there’s something cool going on down here.”

Renner said she’s been most excited about community members coming together to “make a difference” in Chauncey because of the trail system.

“The trail system is kind of instilling hope and promise for an exciting future here in Chauncey, so the people are coming for wanting to help and do what they can to make Chauncey better,” Renner said. 

Community volunteers like Molly Morris, a member of the Athens Bicycle Club and an Athens citizen, work on trail maintenance. She heard about the trail from the bike club, which has played a role in pushing for the trail’s construction. 

“I think it’s important for people to realize that the community is involved in this project and willing to keep it up,” Morris said. “If we get extra trails, it’s going to mean more work, and I want them to realize as a community we’re committed to helping keep these trails up and going.”

Trail volunteers have a wide range of duties, including weed whacking, fixing drainage issues and cutting up trees that have fallen on the trail with chainsaws. Ken Maglosky, a mountain biker, and Bill Hayes, an independent candidate for Athens County Commissioners, are also trail volunteers and have been chainsaw certified to clear fallen trees on the trail. 

“I just started biking here and just wanted to give back a little bit,” Maglosky said. 

Maglosky, a trail crew leader, said on any given weekend there are about eight or nine volunteers. During the week, there can be as many as 15 volunteers. 

Hayes said he’s beginning to get into mountain biking, but he’s helping maintain the trail because he wants to encourage ecotourism in the county and to build a thriving economy on it. 

“People pretty much everywhere now understand that just chasing money and living in a big city is not really what it’s cut out to be, and we’re all looking for opportunities … to just have a good life,” Hayes said. “That’s the opportunity we have here.”

The Chauncey-Dover Community Park is currently under construction as a trailhead. When it’s finished, the trailhead will include a new driveway, added parking and expanded restroom facilities. 

While the original grand opening for the Baileys Trail System was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Renner said there will be an official, grand opening in the future after the trailhead is finished. 

“The energy (in Chauncey) is just becoming more and more positive, and it just makes me excited to see how far we can take it,” Renner said.

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