The Simon Kenton Pathfinders are gearing up for the Rita A. Larson Memorial Ride on Sunday, Sept. 13. The routes are being marked, maps are being printed, the food is being dropped off, volunteers are signing up, lists are being checked and rechecked, t-shirts are being printed. It’s not too late to sign up. Walk-ins are welcome.
The 10-foot-wide Simon Kenton Trail now runs north from downtown Springfield through Urbana near the restored railroad Depot, passes through the village of West Liberty on its west edge and continues to Carter Avenue on the southern end of Bellefontaine for a total distance of approximately 31 miles. The trail from Springfield to the north corporation limits of Urbana (behind the airport runway) is paved. The recently completed 16-mile portion from that point to Bellefontaine is crushed limestone. It is hoped that it will be paved as funds become available. Estimates to pave it are in the $1.4 million range. Many new trails are utilizing limestone as it’s more cost effective.
In 1985, President Reagan appointed a bipartisan commission to look ahead for a generation and determine how to meet the nation’s needs for outdoor activities. The commission recognized the increased problems and pressures on the outdoors. As a solution the commission offered the following recommendations:
“Our communities can create a network of greenways across the USA. Thousands of miles of abandoned rail lines should become hiking, biking and bridle paths. Utility right-of-ways could share their open space not only with hikers and cyclists, but with wildlife.”
The conversion of old railroad beds to trails is becoming mainstream. Currently, in the United States more than 20,000 miles of trail have been built and more than 1,600 preserved pathways. In addition to recreation, exercise, and wellness purposes, trails bring communities together and serve as “engines” for economic development. They provide an alternative to regular transportation networks. Trail users become trail stewards by providing another set of eyes for protection of adjoining property. Increased tourism is anticipated, as it is not uncommon to host in and out of state guests who enjoy riding bicycles. Bicycling is very popular now. It is a good “family” thing.
With the completion of the trail to Bellefontaine, the trail now connects to the nation’s largest network of paved, off street trails, totaling over 350 miles. The Simon Kenton Trail connects to the Little Miami Scenic Trail in Springfield and continues to Xenia (the hub of several trails) and beyond. The distance from Bellefontaine at the “top of Ohio” to the “bottom of Ohio” near Cincinnati is 107 miles. People come from all over the United States to ride these trails. They stay overnight and eat in local restaurants. Recent tourism studies suggest that riders spend $30 per visit when cycling. The communities of Urbana, West Liberty, and Bellefontaine will all benefit from this extended trail. Cyclists spend money!
Although the trail is open to the public, no motorized vehicles are permitted except maintenance and emergency vehicles. Violators will be arrested and prosecuted if apprehended. Bicycles, skateboards, rollerblades, scooters, and wheelchairs are welcome.
The members of the Simon Kenton Pathfinders are proud of the organization’s accomplishments over the past 18 years. They are an all-volunteer, charitable (501 (c) 3) tax deductible organization. Donations may be sent to P. O. Box 91, Urbana, OH 43078. All funds are used for maintenance of the trail. New members, donations, and volunteers are always welcome. Visit the website at simonkentonpathfinders.org for further information.
Submitted by event organizers.