Mountain bikers have been riding all over Fort Hill for years, so it is nothing new. I have done it myself.
Basically, we followed unimproved deer trails that were strewn with the thorns from the numerous hedge apple trees that give Thorn Hill its name. In practice, I spent about as much time fixing flats as riding, so it was never optimal. After just a few trips, I deemed that it wasn’t worth the trouble.
But having a well-maintained, formal trail that is relatively free from thorns and located away from the apex of the hill where the earthen works are located would be advantageous in preserving the site. The way it is now, there are no clearly demarcated trails for the bikes to ride on, so the local kids who are riding up there go any and everywhere. This is not good.
Contrary to what some misinformed citizens have said, a properly designed bike trail will be used primarily by responsible adults, or their supervised children, not local kids just messing around. Many are in formal bike clubs who enjoy riding together, emphasizing safety. Adult mountain bikers adopt a sense of ownership in the facilities on which they ride, even taking pride in helping to maintaining them. This is evidenced by the trails that run through Capitol View Park on the Kentucky River.
With proper signage that directs the cyclists to the designated trail, and prohibits riding on the top of the hill, there would be little chance of them degrading the earthen works. In fact, the more adults who ride up there, the less chance that the local kids will tear stuff up. Mountain bikers will actually help police the area.
As a bonus, they will probably stop around town to eat and fill their cars with gas when they are finished. A well-designed mountain bike trial will draw many more tourists to Fort Hill than the earthen works alone. The bike enthusiasts will probably walk around viewing the earthen works while they are up there, and isn't that what tourism is all about?
As the former Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's (KYTC) bicycle coordinator, Troy Hearn has a proven record of properly designing mountain biking trails that will attract visitors while avoiding negatively impacting the environs. That is exactly what he was in the process of doing, in conjunction with the city manager, parks department and the Boy Scouts, when a few folks protested to the city to stop them. Hearn was volunteering his services to the city, as well as to the Boy Scouts.
Hearn’s planning for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure prompted 58 local bike/ped master plans in 2018. He has fostered partnerships with other KYTC divisions, state agencies and private organizations like WalkBike Frankfort.
Apparently, these otherwise well-intentioned citizens do not know Hearn. Their fears are unfounded, but reveal that they have little to no interest in mountain biking and physical fitness. That’s their prerogative, but it shouldn’t scuttle this project.
Jim Daniel is a lifelong Frankfort resident and retired Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection enforcement agent. His email address is email@example.com.