Brent Fullmer maneuvered the brush-cutting equipment through an overgrown area of Black Elk-Neihardt Park on Saturday to clear the path for what he hopes will become a popular destination for bicyclists, walkers and hikers.
Fullmer is working to build a 4.2-mile natural surface trail, which will be built in three phases and make its way through some of the park's wooded and more secluded areas.
“There were some rogue mountain bike trails that went through here in the past,” Fullmer said. “So we're going to put an official mountain bike trail in.”
The Blair City Council initially approved the trail in February. It was approved again after Fullmer partnered with Trails Have Our Respect (THOR), which oversees several trails in Omaha.
On Saturday, about a dozen volunteers joined Fullmer to cut back years of growth, including poison ivy and stinging nettles.
“It's all in there,” Fullmer said.
The first phase of the trail will begin at the parking lot at the foot of the Tower of the Four Winds and goes through what Fullmer is calling “the thicket” before popping out the other side of the park.
A kiosk, which is being constructed as part of Eagle Scout project, will show the map of the course.
Though the trail isn't complete, Fullmer encouraged cyclists to begin riding the course now.
“What we get in today, come and ride. That's what maintains the trail is riding it,” he said. “If people want to come up here and try this trail out, just follow the ribbon in the dirt.
“Eventually, we'll get some signs up and I'll have the kiosk with the map and all that, but for the time being it will be a bit of a treasure hunt,” Fullmer added.
The trail isn't just for mountain bike enthusiasts.
“That's another main objective is to open it up to hikers and runners. They can actually get into these areas that before were completely impenetrable,” Fullmer said. “If you want to go back there (now), you're going to get stinging nettles, and stickers and potentially poison ivy. With this trail, it will be trimmed back and it will all be controlled so you can get into it.”
Fullmer hopes to complete the second and third phases of the trail yet this year. However, he needs approval from the city council before that work can begin.
“We'll see what the council thinks. I know a lot of them live and use this particular park so they can come walk it and see what they think,” Fullmer said. “I'd like to get this in this fall. As soon as they say go, I'll go. I'd like to get the whole thing in this fall if I could and get riding in. Fall is actually a really good time to ride a trail in because you can compact the dirt and get it nice and solid.”
Volunteers are expected to return the next two to three Saturdays to complete the first phase of the project. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Fullmer at email@example.com.
Volunteers will also be needed year round to maintain the trail too.
“We need to have some good local volunteers who can help maintain and trim it out,” Fullmer said. “This trail is going to take a lot of maintenance in terms of just trimming because it's got a lot of grass.”