02/09/12 — New mountain bike trail seen as economic boost

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New mountain bike trail seen as economic boost

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on February 9, 2012 1:46 PM

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Steve Desrochers, an employee at Bicycle World, talks about the mountain bike trail being created on city land behind the bicycle shop on Ash Street. The trail is one mile in length and is for beginners. Desrochers and others hope to include other trails that will eventually create a network of trails 8 miles long.

Following Steve Desrochers as he walks around the newly carved mountain bike trail through Stoney Creek Park north of Ash Street, it's easy to understand why he's known as Steve 21.

Studying Desrochers' long, brisk strides, there's no doubt that the man, who is now 58, was legendary for riding his bicycle at more than 21 miles per hour.

Now he jokes he can only reach those speeds going downhill, but as he walks -- eyes forward, always looking forward -- there's no question that the path through the trees and over streams was something he envisioned long ago. He was always ready to make the trail happen, but just stuck at the starting line waiting for someone to say "Go."

But it's not as if this idea recently occurred to Desrochers and other cycling enthusiasts in the county -- it's just that the trail toward getting the biking paths was far longer than could fit in the 50 acres of woodlands.

Desrochers said there has been interest in developing a mountain bike trail in the woods north of Ash Street along Stoney Creek for years.

The greenway and road bike clubs had always provided an outlet for biking, but with mountain bike enthusiasts who trickled into town through Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, the prospect of a local track was a low-cost slam dunk for the city.

Desrochers said in years past he's directed airmen and other cyclists to tracks in Clayton, Greenville and the Triangle.

Why drive an hour when there's ample land for a trail on city property for little to no cost, he wondered.

But a lack of consistency at the head of the city's parks and director department left the project gathering dust until the position was filled last August by someone just as obsessed with the outdoors as those who wanted the trails.

Parks and Recreation Director Scott Barnard walked into Outdoor World soon after starting work in Goldsboro to talk about Stoney Creek Park's disc golf course (Outdoor World sells discs) and to see what the shop staff members would like to see from his department.

They had a quick answer: mountain bike trails.

Within a week, Barnard came back, this time asking the employees if they would help recruit volunteers for a workday to clear the area out for the trails.

"Scott was like 'We can do this,'" Desrochers recalled.

By Jan. 15, 20 volunteers were out clearing the trails that Barnard, Desrochers and Capt. Mike Unruh of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base had painstakingly blazed days before.

Barnard had marked and created trails in his previous positions in Wake and New Hanover counties, although as the trio distributed ribbons marking the path unfolded, it was clear the trail had been deep beneath the underbrush all along, like a statue within a block of granite, just waiting to be revealed.

Desrochers said he Barnard and Unruh would sometimes clear 20 feet of brush only to realize the trail would be better served in a different direction. They doubled back, took the ribbons down and continued barreling through the brush, swinging machetes and trying to ensure the finished product would be something to be proud of.

"You would look and look and then it jumps out at you," Desrochers said of the trail.

The bike trail that now traverses the woods behind Camron's Clubhouse, Bicycle World and The Lantern Inn stretches about a mile across a portion of the city's 50 acres of woodland.

Access to the trail, which loops off of the greenway that runs along Stoney Creek, is found at the intersection of East Peachtree and North Durant streets, where Desrochers says parking spaces will soon be added. In its place now is equipment from Clear Water Management Trust fund projects performed near the trail in the past year.

There are plans to create additional loops, hopefully getting as many as eight miles of mountain bike trail in the park, but already Desrochers says the mile of rugged terrain is a hidden gem for the city of Goldsboro.

"It's a great resource for the city," he said.

Deep within the woods, Desrochers marvels at the suspension of disbelief that overtakes him.

"Goldsboro could be 100 miles away from here," he says, looking around. "This is so nice."

Still, his shop is just a few yards away, which he said is a boost not only to the store's sales and repairs, but also to the bikers who will come through.

He has stocked his inventory with heavy duty rubber tubes for tires in anticipation of the increased demand, especially as briars and other hazards are still being cleared away.

Barnard said the trail is an example of what parks and recreation departments can do to boost local economies.

"For years parks and rec has been behind the curve thinking about economic benefit to the community, when without a place to play baseball, people don't buy gloves. If there's nowhere to ride, people don't buy bikes," he said.

Still, Barnard insists the development of the trails isn't over, and is hoping a group of enthusiasts will soon emerge similar to what happened with the disc golf course to assist with volunteer days and to push for new additions.

"My hope is that something similar to what is taking place in the disc golf community will emerge, maybe as affiliation with the road bike club. An organization locally that will serve as grassroots that will want to run races and raise money for charity," he said.

He stressed the importance of the community's efforts, especially as he plans to mark the trails for the second loop -- one more difficult than the first, beginner loop -- in the coming weeks.

"Neither one of us can be successful without the other. Soon we'll need endorsement from the club to move forward," he said.

And after the entire 8-mile loop is completed? Barnard hopes the cyclists will take proposals to Waynesborough Park and the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park to put together other trails, solidifying Goldsboro's spot as a mountain bike destination.

For information about getting involved with volunteer cleanup efforts at Stoney Creek Park, call the Parks and Recreation Department at 739-7480.