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Happier trails for mountain bikers
Chicopee Woods courses renovated for pros, beginners
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Tim Wright, left, and Keith Ware ride along the Tortoise Loop, part of the Chicopee Woods mountain bike trails. - photo by Tom Reed

Just in time for warm weather, the Chicopee Woods Mountain Bike Trail System’s renovations offer new trails for avid bikers and first-timers alike.

"We added in total about eight miles of new trail in the last two and a half years," said Tom Sauret, the executive director for Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association, also known as SORBA.

The existing trail system was in need of repair, and many groups offered their time and resources to make the renovations possible.

"The older trails that were out there were really rooty and had some bad erosion issues going on," local SORBA chapter president Daniel Elzey said. "The Elachee Nature Center ... wanted us to kind of address those issues and of course we’re always proactive in doing that anyway."

Renovations to the bike trails include a new one mile Gateway Trail for children, beginning riders and those who want to enjoy a more gentle ride.

Four miles of rolling trail were added for intermediate riders, and sections of the existing trails were rerouted to create a more sustainable trail system. The trail system now includes more than 20 miles of single track mountain bike trails.

"We used money from the school board when the agricultural center closed and leveraged $128,000 from the Department of Natural Resources with a recreational trails program grant. Plus the Chicopee Area Park Commission made a significant contribution in putting in a new addition to the parking area," Sauret said.

The ribbon cutting ceremony for the recently revamped trails was held April 19. Since then, Elzey said he has heard a lot of positive feedback.

"Everyone that comes in absolutely loves the trails," Elzey said. "They’re a really great resource for the community."

Sauret said one of the unique things about the trail system at Chicopee Woods is the variety of trails so near a city.

"There’s over 22 miles of really single track mountain bike trail smack dab in the middle of this urban setting and there’s really not much like it, certainly not in the Southeast," Sauret said.

Elzey said one of the positive features of the system is how many different kinds of trails are available.

"The really good thing about that trail is it accommodates the entire range of users," Elzey said. "A lot of trails in other towns you go to tend to just be either a beginner trail or an advanced trail so it doesn’t have that range that we’re able to accomplish at Chicopee Woods."

Sauret said he hopes the new and improved trail system will encourage people to start mountain biking.

"People can have a really great experience right out of the parking lot and make it a life long healthy habit. With childhood diabetes, obesity, all of these things we’re facing as a country, we think mountain biking is part of that answer," Sauret said. "It’s part of this large vision of making this community more biking friendly."

And as for seasoned riders like Elzey?

"Probably my favorite trail would have to be the flying squirrel trail that’s one of the new trails," Elzey said "It’s like a roller coaster."

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