DuPage County Forest Preserve District officials are working with a mountain biking group that wants to build natural-surface trails in some area preserves.
No decisions have been made, but Jerry Stoeckigt, executive director of Chicago Area Mountain Bikers, spoke before the forest preserve commission this week to propose his group build dirt trails no more than three feet wide in at least two preserves.
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The 500-member group is targeting Hidden Lake Forest Preserve near Downers Grove and Meacham Grove Forest Preserve near Bloomingdale, which it says have ideal topography, vegetation and soil to support sustainable trails.
"These can be used for runners, hikers, people walking their dogs and sometimes even equestrians," Stoeckigt said. "These are minimal maintenance with no erosion, they take people where you want them to go and also keep them out of places you don't."
Chicago Area Mountain Bikers, a 19-year-old nonprofit group, already has built trails in the Plainfield, Chicago and Carpentersville park districts, as well as the Kane County Forest Preserve District.
Commissioner Mike Formento expressed concerns about mountain biking safety, and questioned whether the group planned to host races within the preserves. Stoeckigt said the trails would be only for personal recreation, not races, but said injuries are just as likely as in other activities such as running, biking or boating.
"I can't tell you there's not going to be an incident, because there probably will since you get different users," Stoeckigt said. "But properly-maintained trails will reduce accidents.
"We don't police the trails because we don't have that authority," he said. "We advocate, we educate and we work with land managers on putting up signage that makes sense."
If the forest preserve allows the trails, Chicago Area Mountain Bikers volunteers will hold annual trail cleanups, where they remove litter and invasive species, as well as update trail conditions for riders via mobile apps and the group's homepage, Stoeckigt said.
Stoeckigt also outlined his group's financial data, showing it spent $17,000 on maintaining its trails throughout the Chicago region in 2010, and secures income from revenue streams like member contributions and events.
Commissioners did not make any decision on whether to permit the trails, but President D. "Dewey" Pierotti Jr. encouraged the group to continue talking with district staff members about potential trails.
"Thank you for opening our eyes to possible new uses," Pierotti said.