Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter. She also works as a PR specialist.
After two years of heated public meetings and setbacks, it appears a bike park will finally open this spring in the Green Street woods across from the transfer station.
The New England Mountain Bike Association has signed a five-year agreement with the Marblehead Recreation and Parks Department to build and maintain bike trails on the site.
“We are incredibly grateful to our friends at NEMBA for their support in getting the Marblehead off-road bike park officially underway,” said Pat Milner with Bike MOR (Marblehead Off-Road). Milner has been leading the campaign to build the park.
Hopes for a bike park began during COVID when a group of teenagers started searching for places to ride their mountain bikes. In January 2021, they built small bike jumps at Lead Mills, which is conservation land.
The Conservation Commission destroyed the bike jumps and banned the kids from biking there. Angry parents pushed back in public meetings, arguing that the town had plenty of conservation land, and the kids needed a safe place to ride, especially during lockdown.
Next, the teens started biking in the woods at the corner of Green and Beacon streets and were again kicked off–this time for riding too close to wetlands, which are protected. The Conservation Commission cited bikers’ parents.
Organizers, including Milner, began working with town leaders to find a path forward. In May 2022, Town Meeting overwhelmingly approved a plan to allow the Green Street site (which is owned by the School Department but has been vacant for many years) to be used for a bike park.
Parents then partnered with NEMBA to work out details with the town.
“With their help, we now have an agreement that enables us to move forward with next steps and hopefully have a space ready for bikers of all ages to enjoy the space this spring,” Milner said.
Geoff Duckworth’s two boys, ages 8 and 10, both love to mountain bike, and he is excited about the new park.
“Marblehead is such a sports-oriented town, but mostly for traditional sports like football and baseball, and there’s a ton of space allocated to those kinds of sports,” he said. “I think the town is recognizing the value of non-traditional sports.”
Planning and design
Planning and design for the park is just beginning, according to Frank Lane, the president of NEMBA’s North Shore chapter.
“The park will be about eight or 10 acres,” Lane said. “It will be kind of a looped trail with some dirt and natural features. You can contour the dirt into what’s called a berm turn. We’re not looking for huge wooden jumps. We’re going to make it somewhat natural.”
Lane said the park will be for beginner and more advanced riders.
“We’ll have a small dirt jump, and then something that’s a little larger so people can learn on the small one and move along to the larger one. We’ll have signage directing the people as they go down the trail, similar to ski trail colors–green would be the easy direction, and black would be more challenging.”
This week, Milner outlined next steps in an email to supporters.
“We need to sort out a few things, including removing dead trees, figuring out fundraising and waivers for volunteers, organizing ourselves into committees, connecting with Rec and Park and other town stakeholders, designing and building signs, planning and building the trails, etc.”
Duckworth and his sons are ready to help.
“We will be there to put shovels to work,” he said. Anyone interested in volunteering or donating to the project can reach out at BikeMORProject@gmail.com.