Black Elk-Neihardt Park bike trail plan

View from southwest ridge of Black Elk-Neihardt Park toward the shelter, which can be in the distance at center. Blair resident Brent Fullmer wants to create mountain bike trails throughout the park.

Brent Fullmer is a cycling enthusiast. He's ridden mountain bike trails across the country, including in Utah, Texas and Iowa, where he has previously lived.

For the last five years, Fullmer has called Blair home.

“As a cyclist, one of the things I really miss is having a good trail,” he said. “We've got plenty of good terrain around here. We've got plenty of elevation for good trails.”

On Wednesday, Fullmer presented a proposal to the Blair Park Board to create mountain bike trails in Black Elk-Neihardt Park, which overlooks the city and the Missouri River valley and is the highest point in Blair.

“I think it's something that would really help this park,” Fullmer. “Black Elk has a loop on it, but the park itself is small. It's only a half mile in length.”

Fullmer's plans call for a 3.2-mile natural surface trail throughout the park. The multi-use trail would be built in four sections, including through some of the park's wooded and more secluded areas. It would be designed with support for erosion control and safety.

“This is not set in stone by any means,” Fullmer said. “I'm definitely open to suggestions.”

Fullmer said a trail could be beneficial to the city as it increases the attractiveness of the community and is in line with the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce's initiative to create additional recreation areas throughout the metro area. Riders, he said, will travel to different trails.

“Is this a long enough trail that people would come a distance to ride it?” board member Betsy Anderson asked. “What are other trails like? Are they the same distance?”

Mike Ferrell, vice president of Trails Have Our Respect (THOR), which is advocating on Fullmer's behalf, said 3 to 6 miles is standard for a mountain bike trail.

Board member Jeene Hobbs noted that one portion of the proposed trail was in an area that is already used as a disc golf course.

However, Fullmer said the two facilities could coincide.

“That becomes part of your etiquette for that part, I assume,” Hobbs said. “You need to make the riders and walkers aware that there might be disc golf and you need to make disc golfers aware that there is an active trail through that section.”

Pat Long, cemetery and parks superintendent, said a portion of that northwest corner has also been slated for a dog park.

“My only issue with that is that I've been on this board for almost 10 years and we've been building a non-existent dog park for 10 years,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs said the board has not seen the funds or a solid proposal for the dog park.

“When someone comes in with a solid proposal, I'm not sure I want to tell them no,” she said of Fullmer's plan.

Long and board member Joe Burns expressed concerns over the potential for a trail in the overlook section of the park, which is left as open prairie.

“I just hate to see it all torn up with a trail,” Burns said.

However, Ferrell said THOR, which has built more than 70 miles of trails in the Omaha metro area, would help preserve the natural area.

“It's definitely not the intent of someone who wants to come in to build a mountain bike trail that's going to disrupt that,” he said. “It's more about giving more people access to that type of an area.”

“One of the things I think this will give people the opportunity to do is actually go out in the prairie,” Fullmer added.

Fullmer said the trails could be built in sections starting in the spring. The entire project could take approximately two years to complete.

The park board plans to visit Tranquility Park at 120th and Fort streets in Omaha to observe mountain bike trails there before making a recommendation to the Blair City Council. The council will have to approve any plan before it can move forward.

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