Members of a new group pushing for more mountain bike trails in the Beaufort region say a Beaufort County-owned passive park on Lady’s Island would be ideal — but the county doesn’t think so.
“We’re just trying to get the county interested,” says Joe Mac, owner of University Bikes on Boundary Street in Beaufort and a member of the Beaufort Trailblazers.
The request comes as Beaufort County prepares to launch a major study of its recreational facilities and gather input from the public. But at this time, the county says it hasn’t planned mountain bike trails in passive parks such as Pineview Preserve, which Beaufort Trailblazers favors for bike trails.
Beaufort Trailblazers collected 100 signatures supporting a single-track mountain bike trail in Pineview. Off-road singletracks, which are 2 to 6 feet wide, are less intrusive to the environment and wildlife and don’t require a mountain of dirt, Mac says.
Whitemarsh, Mac says, is extremely popular with hikers, runners and cyclists.
“If you build it,” Mac said, “they will come.”
Pineview Reserve is 108 acres between Sam’s Point Road and Rock Springs Creek. Beaufort County purchased Pineview in 2020 for $2.98 million, using funds from the Rural and Critical Lands Program which preserves land with taxpayer dollars. At the time, officials touted the land as a place for kayaking, hiking and horseback riding.
Beaufort County is set to launch a recreation needs study, and public meetings to get input from the public are scheduled for the first week of March, said Chris Ophardt, a county spokesperson. .
Mountain biking is allowed in passive parks, such as Pineview, with the exception of Widgeon Point Preserve, but the county will not build improved trails in a passive park, Ophardt said.
However, Ophardt said, a mountain bike trail and groomed trail is one of the projects under consideration for an active park, which are more developed than passive parks.
A 2020 Forbes story said the number of mountain bike trails across the United States showed increases of 100% to over 500% from the same period in 2019, with bike manufacturers seeing a sales increase. He cited the pandemic for the renewed interest in connecting with local trails.
“April 2020, I will never see monthly sales like this again,” Mac said. “I almost sold a new bike every day.”
Mac says mountain biking is a growing sport and one of the top five most popular outdoor activities.
Trail building, he adds, would capitalize on the skyrocketing popularity of mountain biking.
Beaufort Trailsblazers is looking for a professional trail builder to plan the installation of single track mountain bike trails in Pineview. Members of the group say they would work voluntarily to maintain it.
Area bike trails are located in Hunting Island State Park, Pinckney Island National Wildlife Area, and Hilton Head Island. But the options are limited, says Shannon Butler, another Beaufort Trailblazers member.
“My kids love single track trails,” says Butler. “We need to get out of town.”
Many cities in South Carolina have more than one mountain bike trail location, Butler said.
the South Carolina Interscholastic Cycling League was founded in 2018 as a non-profit organization to help develop high school and college teams/clubs for students in grades 6-12, he noted.
Children, Mac says, need “more than just looking at the leaves.” At the same time, he adds, it’s not uncommon to see people over 70 going out on mountain bikes.
“Mountain biking is fun,” Mac says, adding that a mountain bike trail also lets people run and hike in nature. “It’s a good exercise. It’s good for you.”