While most of the recent headlines about mountain biking in Kane County focused on residents who don't want to see the activity in Fabyan Woods, a group of enthusiasts quietly staked a claim for their sport in Raceway Woods off Route 31 near Carpentersville.
On any given day, area mountain bikers can log onto the Chicago Area Mountain Bikers website and see if there is a green light next to the Raceway Woods trail link. If there is, then weather and trail conditions are conducive to using the paths without damaging them or the surrounding woods. It's that type of responsible use and stewardship that might soon see mountain biking expand in the woods. Forest preserve commissioners and staff members all indicated Thursday they would be happy to see that happen.
"The whole track process has been very supportive, very positive," said Monica Meyers, executive director of the district. "They have done an excellent job of getting in there and cleaning these areas up. Though we were nervous at first, this has turned out to be very beneficial."
The mountain bikers host regular, volunteer, trail workdays where they clean and maintain the course. That can mean anything from removing trees to compacting and smoothing the natural surface of the 1.5-mile mountain biking trail. Meyers said the group has also helped remove people who previously used the woods in destructive ways.
With that in mind, commissioners gave tentative approval to a new, 10-year agreement with the organization. The deal would extend the current agreement and allow for a 1.3 mile expansion of the existing trail farther south into the woods. Just like the current trail, the mountain bikers would create the new trail at no cost to the district or local taxpayers. The Chicago Area Mountain Bikers pooled $10,000 to create the trail and will budget $5,000 from membership contributions to maintain the trail each year of the agreement.
The expansion involves adding about 0.3 miles to the existing trail, building a new 1-mile, looped trail segment south of the site, and constructing a new crossing for a small creek that runs through the woods to connect the two trails.
Reached by email, Mike Biewenga, who coordinates the trail upkeep in Raceway Woods for the mountain biking group, said there are no current plans additional expansion beyond what is proposed. He said non-mountain bikers will benefit from gaining better access through the woods and removal of existing trash, rusting car parts and invasive plant species that will be cleaned up during the trail creation and maintenance.
The commissioner's Planning and Utilization Committee unanimously supported the plan Thursday. The full board commission must still vote on the plan.