One of the many local events which have recently been cancelled because of the Covid-19 Pandemic, is the 21st Annual Simon Kenton Pathfinders (SKP) Bike Tour. This event, held in early September for the past 20 years, is the major fund raiser for the SKP organization, a local non-profit and all volunteer group which has built and maintains the Simon Kenton Trail (SKT). This is a 30 mile multi-use trail extending from the Champaign-Clark County line, South of Urbana to Bellefontaine which includes the 6.5 milespur to the YMCA on the East side of Urbana. The bike tour annually raises over $10,000 which is dedicated to maintenance of the trail and the historic Urbana Depot. Over 100 cyclists annually participate in this tour which in addition to raising funds for the bike trail, brings in other tourist dollars to Champaign and Logan county communities. Tour routes which vary each year, not only showcase the Simon Kenton Trail but also take participants to many of our local tourist destinations such as the Ohio Caverns,Piatt Castles, Kiser Lake and the covered bridges of Union County.
Deciding to cancel the 2020 SKP Tour while a difficult decision for the SKP Board, was necessary, due to the uncertainty of the possible restrictions which we might be facing in September, as well as consideration for the health and safety of our volunteers (many of whom were at high risk of contracting the virus), ride participants and area communities. In addition, our Board was not comfortable going to our many previous sponsors, asking for financial support, given the negative economic impact which the pandemic has caused for most businesses and donors.
Since the completion of paving the 16 mile connector from Urbana to Bellefontaine, just one year ago in September 2019, we have seen an increase in usage of the trail by as much as 450% at the West Liberty trail head and well over 100% increase at every other site where we have trail counters. This is great news for our trail and the communities through which it runs. We are seeing all types of use, including long distance hikers, bike and trike campers, runners (including some of our local HS sports teams), many walkers (and their dogs). What started out as a vision some 23 years ago when the original 17 members got together to plan a multi-use trail, has become a reality and is fast becoming a “destination trail” for many, especially in the cycling community. A new challenge in the cycling community is to ride from the “Top to the Bottom of Ohio,” (Bellefontaine to the Ohio River at Cincinnati) along the 120 mile section of the contiguous Simon Kenton and Little Miami Trails. We will see more of this as word gets out about our trail. With each cyclist or hiker, money comes into area communities.
An economic impact study by the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission in 2016, found that there is 13.4 million dollars generated annually by trail users in Southwest Ohio. That amount will only increase and we are beginning to see that positive economic impact along our trail; a great example being the Depot Coffee House which is at our Urbana trail head.
We thank all who use our trail; cyclists, joggers, backpackers, families with their children and yes, their dogs. Despite the pandemic, our awesome volunteers have done a great job of maintaining the trail this summer but with loss of revenue from the annual bike tour, we will need the help of our communities to continue that maintenance in the coming year. While volunteers perform much of the trail work, there are gas and equipment costs and occasionally, we need to hire subcontractors to perform maintenance which we are unable to do otherwise. We are not only faced with our annual maintenance but it is time to again re-seal our original trail at an estimated cost of perhaps $200,000 during the next couple of years. All of those expenditures come from donations, grants and fund raising!
If you are one of the many who use our trail, please consider joining our group (membership forms on our website), volunteering to assist us in maintenance or fund raising and if possible, make a donation (any amount is welcome) so that we can continue to keep your trail well maintained, safe and fun in the future.
You can keep up to date with what’s happening on the Simon Kenton Trail by going to our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SimonKentonPathfinders/or our website:https://simonkentonpathfinders.org
And, you may always send donations to our post office box or contact us with questions and comments at: Simon Kenton Pathfinders, P.O. Box #91 Urbana, OH 43078, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Cook is a volunteer with the Simon Kenton Pathfinders.