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posted: 6/12/2012 5:19 PM

Mountain bikers booted from Fabyan Woods in new plan

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Fabyan Woods took another step toward remaining a quiet, little-used part of nature Tuesday as task force members deleted a plan to include mountain biking trails in the woods.

Kane County officials are working on a vision to redevelop the old Settler's Hill landfill, county jail and adjacent properties, including Fabyan Woods, near Geneva. Neighbors to the woods have lobbied for weeks to spike the addition of mountain biking trails. They've petitioned Kane County Board members with fears that the bikers, who already ride in the woods illegally, will slowly destroy the woods if welcomed.

"It is a sport often enjoyed outside the law and off trail," said Kathy Valle, the leading opponent of mountain biking in the woods.

The new plan moves the mountain biking trail to the Settler's Hill landfill to the east of the woods. There would only be one connector path coming through Fabyan Woods to the rest of the 750-acre campus that bikers could use in coming from the west. A second possible path may be added in the future if pedestrian traffic calls for it. Fabyan Task Force Chairman Mike Donahue said the issue with mountain biking in Fabyan Woods now is a problem.

"They are ripping up the woods now," Donahue said. "So the argument is an enforcement issue, not a planning issue. If we have a problem, then we need to enforce on that problem. We need a policy change to install trails, regulate against the trails and then enforce against the illegal use of the property."

Area mountain bikers readily admit to using Fabyan Woods now. But they say dedicated trails in the woods would cut down on people blazing their own way through the woods illegally.

"We love trees just as much as anyone here," said Ben Jenkins, one of several mountain bikers who spoke in favor of a creating a trail system in Fabyan Woods. Jenkins said there is a misinformation campaign about the dangers of mountain biking and the harm currently caused in Fabyan Woods led by the neighbors of the woods that is fueling local backlash against the sport. Jenkins said there is no plan or desire to create a private mountain bike course in the woods, nor is the push for the trails led by Chicago residents. Indeed, all the pro-mountain biking speakers Tuesday lived in Kane County.

Jenkins said a biking trail at Settler's Hill would be welcome but fall far short of being a major draw for enthusiasts of the sport.

"There would be mixed feelings about it," Jenkins said. "In this region, mountain biking is done primarily in the woods. That's what mountain bikers look to do. It is a really big letdown for us to possibly be excluded from the woods."

The full county board must still sign off on the vision before anything happens. A look at the costs of the various features proposed in redeveloping the Fabyan campus, including a small music venue and possibly a hotel, will happen soon. The Kane County Forest Preserve District is expected to weigh-in on the plan before that study and the county board vote.

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