Berea is one step closer to starting a mountain track/running trail project after the Berea City Council gave preliminary approval for a $10,000 budget amendment to pay for design costs. The issue was addressed last week during the first reading of the city’s 2020-2021 amended budget.
The proposed public facility will be near JC Chambers Lane in the Berea Industrial Park, off Menelaus Road. Officials said the trail may include a pump track, or learning /practice track that would run along the flat terrain near Silver Creek. The city’s goal would be to eventually connect the southeast and northeast corners of the industrial park, Fraley said.
“Both [plots of land] are very near Silver Creek, and the land tends to be very steep back there. That’s something that we won’t be able to develop for business or industry because it’s simply too steep; it’s not suitable for that purpose. But citizens still own that land, and we should make it into something citizens can use,” said Mayor Bruce Fraley.
Fraley said he anticipates the first phase of the three to four mile project could be completed by the summer of 2021, with the idea that it can serve both local residents and tourists. “We believe it could be constructed, planned, and designed for $75,000 or less,” Fraley said. “To me that’s a good investment because it provides recreational opportunities for citizens, but also you bring potential revenue to town for small businesses when people come to Berea. That’s potential business for our shops, restaurants and hotels.” Fraley emphasized the facility will also include a running trail, and that it will cater to cyclists of all bages and skill levels.
The mountain bike/running trail initiative is part of the city’s effort to expand Berea’s offerings in adventure tourism, which officials say is a growing facet of Kentucky’s tourism economy. In line with that, Berea Tourism has stepped up promotion the city’s outdoor attractions in recent months, including city walking trails, hiking at the Pinnacles, and kayaking on Owsley Fork Reservoir.
Berea City Council Economic Development Committee Chair Jim Davis said use of the land for a mountain bike/running trail seems like the most logical choice, given that much of the land is near Silver Creek and thus in a flood plain.
“I just think it’s a good use of the land, if anybody’s seen the land out there,” Davis said. “As it stands right now it really doesn’t have any industrial use unless somebody who’s got an awful lot of money wants to fill it in. I think it’s a good idea.”
Berea City Councilman Steve Caudill spearheaded the effort for a mountain bike/running trail before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The project was put on hold when the city cut capital improvement expenditures, but more optimistic revenue projections have cleared the way for the project to resume. At last week’s virtual meeting of the Berea City Council, Caudill said city officials, staffers and representatives of the Kentucky Mountain Bike Association met earlier this month at the proposed site to explore design options. Caudill stated he is eager to get the word out that progress is being made.
“We do have enough money to get this project going, but I just want everybody to know that it is moving,” Caudill told the council. “I really think this is an opportunity for our city to make an investment, to work with tourism, and to get things moving in a direction that we’ve talked about for a long time.” Caudill noted he intends to raise the issue with the council after the first of the year. The Berea City Council will take a final vote on the proposed amended budget on December 1.