- Associated Press - Saturday, May 16, 2015

HAMPTON, Ill. (AP) - Members of Friends of Off-Road Cycling (FORC) worked Easter morning to help resurrect a wooded trail at Illiniwek Forest Preserve.

Underway since last November, the project to improve and re-route four of five miles of the hilly trail system is facing a deadline of April 19, since that’s the date of the second annual Illiniwek Abermination race.

The main goals of the work — including installation of four wooden deck structures — are to make the trails less steep and more fun, and to limit erosion, FORC trail steward Drew Hanson, Hampton, said Sunday.

“It was risky both for people coming up the hill, as well as down it,” he said of the previous condition of the trail, which was developed and has been maintained by FORC since 2009. “Since it was so steep, it was risky for beginning riders going down it. It was hard to control your braking.”

“This will be a sustainable trail. If it’s too steep, the water erodes the trail faster,” Mr. Hanson said. “This type of building, keeping the grades at less than 10 percent, will keep the dirt in place far better. We want to make it a better trail, to make it more fun for riders, and to draw some more interest to the park.”

Erosion of the trail accelerated last fall, and work was required to stop it, he said. “The steepness also poses a safety concern because it is not possible to quickly stop a bike while descending, and poor sight lines exist along much of the steepest sections of trail. We have already had multiple reports of user conflicts in this area.”

The Illiniwek trail system is made up of five miles of single-track trail, following natural contours of the terrain and including many overlooks of the Mississippi River Valley and ravines, Mr. Hanson said. One large ravine divides the park, separating the trails into two distinct areas — north and south loops.

The club was inspired by similar structures in a bike trail system in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, called Copper Harbor. It also has built these amenities at Sunderbruch Park in Davenport, another of four bike trails FORC maintains in the area, Mr. Hanson said.

FORC — which has 160 members — also maintains trails at Scott County Park and Westbrook Park in DeWitt, Iowa.

The Illiniwek bike trail has gentler turns, is smoother, and flows a little better than the one at Sunderbruch. “It feels like you’re naturally not fighting with the trail. You’re going with the flow,” Mr. Hanson said. “Some people don’t like that, so it’s good to have a variety.”

FORC got a grant from the local River Action organization for the Sunderbruch work, and members built that trail about four years ago.

About 30 FORC members have been working on the Illiniwek trail, and the club raised $2,500 in a month for the building materials. On Sunday, roughly 10 members were moving dirt, building berms, drilling, sawing, gluing, and putting wood panels in place.

“We’ve also had a lot of donations, and discounts, where businesses helped us to keep the cost down for the project,” Mr. Hanson said, crediting Johnson Creek Hardwood of Mount Carroll, Illinois, Lovewell Fence & Deck of Davenport.

With warm, sunny weather Sunday, the members had fun working. “It’s like a social event almost,” Mr. Hanson said. “Some people like this almost as much as riding bikes.”

Justin Cochuyt, of Moline, is a carpenter by trade, employed by Zelnio Construction. He and his brother Ryan were among those working Sunday.

“It’s gonna be awesome,” Mr. Cochuyt said of the improved trail system. “I don’t think there was much wrong with them before, but this will make them more fun.”

“I’ve never built these structures before. But holding a screw gun is holding a screw gun,” he said.

“It’s fun,” said Mike Corbin, of Bettendorf, a 5-year FORC member, whose wife, Julie, won her division of the Illiniwek race last year. “Having this many people here to work is awesome.”

He estimated he’s worked at least 100 hours on the Hampton trails.

“We’ll spend time with the family this afternoon,” Mr. Corbin said of the Easter holiday. “We know what our priority is in having to get this done for the race. I just have a passion for riding bikes. When you have other people passionate about it, it’s important for me to be out here to make sure I’m here putting in the time to maintain it. That’s the same as everyone else here; they all feel the same way.”

The April 19 event has replaced the Sylvan Island Stampede in Moline, since the Sylvan Island bridge is closed. “We had a really good reception for the event last year, and I think they’ll have a lot of fun this year,” Mr. Hanson said, noting 140 people participated in last year’s “Abermination.”

He said he loves mountain biking because he enjoys the surroundings. “You see so much more stuff. Everything is changing. It’s nice to get away from the urban environment.”

“A lot of people enjoy it for other reasons,” Mr. Hanson said. “Once you get good at it, it’s just fun, riding through the trees real fast. It’s kind of a thrill.”

Mr. Corbin said he likes the challenge. “Every day is different. No traffic. It’s a good cardio workout.”

The improvements will “get more people out using the trails, then get more people to help maintain it,” he said. “It’s good for the community, for people using the campground. Hopefully, it inspires more people to ride off-road, too.”


Source: The (Moline) Dispatch, https://bit.ly/1OCIqdU


Information from: The Dispatch, https://www.qconline.com

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