A dream of the Kosciusko County Velo (KCV) Cycling Club over the last several years has been to have a bike park in the county.
That dream has started to take shape, and on Wednesday KCV had an official ribbon-cutting with the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce and Winona Lake town officials to officially open the Winona Lake Trails Hauth Trailhead.
The trailhead will allow people to park and access the trails, but that’s only the first phase of what KCV is doing, KCV President Mike Cusick said before the ribbon-cutting. The bigger vision is to have the Winona Lake Bike Park at 900 E. Pierceton Road.
In an interview, Cusick said, “It’s actually been a dream of ours to have a bike park for a number of years. Over a year, year and a half ago the opportunity to acquire this land came about. It wasn’t on our radar, but when we became aware of it, and we saw that there was an option to acquire it, it really peaked our interest to really have a 15-acre parcel of land directly next to the Winona Lake bike trails.”
He said KCV had talked about having a pump track – which is one aspect of a bike park – and were looking for locations for it.
“This land actually would allow us to expand the trails themselves, as well as develop a bike park, which would include, with our vision, a pump track, a beginner and advanced skills lines to develop mountain bike skills, a kids bike playground and, eventually, we want to have other amenities out here, such as a bathroom and parking lot so we can develop that space to be attractive to the community as well as attractive to visitors to the community,” Cusick said.
It was about three or four years ago that KCV began seriously talking about beginning a bike park, he said. They looked at some land that the town of Winona Lake was willing to donate to them, but when that got delayed, the opportunity to acquire the land on Pierceton Road came up.
“We really have seriously been looking at having this type of facility in our area for three to four years,” Cusick said.
The property was owned by the Hauth family who was looking to sell it. KCV was made aware of it from neighbors to the property.
“It just seemed like a perfect opportunity to have a parcel of land directly next to the trails to allow trail expansion plus delivering our vision of the bike park, but the awareness was the neighbors knew this was coming up for sale. They approached us because they liked the idea of having more of a park-like atmosphere here as opposed to more residential development,” Cusick said.
KCV is looking at doing fundraising for the bike park in three phases.
The first phase will be to pay for some of the development and planning stages, as well as the acquisition of the land. They hope to raise $315,000 to cover the purchase, planning and create an initial parking lot for visitors.
KCV does own the property, he said, but they’ve partnered with the K21 Health Foundation for the mortgage.
Phase two is going to raise funds for the bike park – the pump track, the skills lines and other amenities. Cusick said they will be planning for phase two while getting through phase one, but hope to get to phase two in the next two to four years.
“Then past that, we also feel that this land – and we’ve talked to the town and Ride+Walk about it – there is a potential to continue the greenway pathway through here to access the current greenway through the trail system, but also allow access to our other residential areas south of Pierceton Road to be able to easily access the greenway to get into The Village at Winona, access to Warsaw, etc.,” Cusick said.
The total KCV is looking to fundraise is an estimated $615,000 to $715,000.
“Our plan is to make it a world-class facility, which means not just moving dirt but having the pump track covered with asphalt for durability and then it wouldn’t have to have as much maintenance. The skills lines would be built, again, with much more durable equipment, so it’s going to attract people who really want to come to a world-class facility that is built correctly, and so that’s our goal with it,” Cusick said.
The property was already used for the Fat+Skinny Tire Festival this year.
“This is our first year of accessing the land and, as part of Fat+Skinny, we have mountain bike races that our partner DINO (Do Indiana Off Road) Series runs. As opposed to being down in the meadow, we actually headquartered them up here, which actually gave us much more land for parking, much more land to spread out their beginning and end of race because they created a pathway inside the trails to that, and also, being on higher ground, gave us a lower risk if it was raining to have any damage to the fields,” he said.
The trails already bring people in from the immediate region, but Cusick said having this type of facility will broaden the region from where visitors to the area come.
KCV started originally as a group to maintain the trails. The cycling club has grown and this year was its 17th Fat+Skinny Tire Fest.
“But this is a major step for KCV in terms of what we do. The festival is a big deal, we have a lot of volunteers that help with that. The trails are a big deal. But this does take us to a different level of engagement in the community because, obviously, it’s a large financial commitment on our part, as well as a commitment to develop and maintain it over time,” Cusick said.
KCV is fundraising now for this effort and encourages anyone that has enjoyed the trail system or recognizes the benefits it can provide to the community to learn more, volunteer and/or donate at https://kcvcycling.networkforgood.com/projects/150565.
If your business would like to sponsor a portion of the project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
KCV is a volunteer, 501(c)3 organization established in 2002 to make Kosciusko communities better through bicycling, according to a provided news release. To find out more, visit kcvcycling.org or find KCV on social media: Instagram, @kcvcycling; Facebook, @KCVCyclingClub.