Mountain bike trail in the works for Fleming Island

By Eric Cravey
Posted 8/8/18

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Although there are no mountains in Clay County, outdoor enthusiasts are one step closer to getting a mountain bike trail on Fleming Island.

The Clay County Planning …

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Mountain bike trail in the works for Fleming Island

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Although there are no mountains in Clay County, outdoor enthusiasts are one step closer to getting a mountain bike trail on Fleming Island.

The Clay County Planning Commission voted Aug. 7 to accept a staff recommendation to amend the Development of Regional Impact rules governing Fleming Island Plantation to convert a tract of land from Wildlife Preserve to Recreation in the county’s zoning code.

The targeted area includes a 53.5-acre county-owned site, of which 15 acres is currently used for the existing recreation area that includes the paved asphalt bike trail, parking area and restrooms on the southern tip of Fleming Island known as the Black Creek Recreation Area. The remaining 18.5 acres of the site is currently designated wildlife preserve and needed to be rezoned in order to facilitate the mountain bike trail.

“The recommendation was that, for mountain biking, this park would provide an opportunity for a short trail and it would provide some activity for neighboring people. It’s not a big enough park to really draw a lot of people from outside [of Clay County], we actually are working with Jennings[State] Forest to put in a much larger mountain bike trail in Jennings Forest. We’ve been working with the park staff on that for some time,” said Carolyn Morgan, chief planner for Clay County as she explained the zoning change to the panel.

The zoning change was presented to the Planning Department by the county commission’s Bikes, Blueways and Trails committee, an ad-hoc committee that’s been working with the county for almost two years to recommend various recreational upgrades and amenities aimed at bolstering recreational opportunities and ecotourism countywide.

Committee Chairman Chris Rodatz did not attend the Planning Commission, but when reached by phone Aug. 8, Rodatz said he applauds the commission’s approval.

“Needless to say, it’s a good idea. The county supports it. It’ll be a good use of the property back there. It’ll be a real good asset for the county,” Rodatz said.

Rodatz said Bikes, Blueways and Trails Committee was first presented the idea by fellow Bikes, Blueways and Trails Committee member Robert Dews, who then contacted SORBA Jax and the county parks department. SORBA Jax is the Jacksonville-based chapter of the Southern Off Road Bicycle Association, a nonprofit organization that promotes mountain biking and installs and maintains trails to meet their goals.

“It would be ideal if everything was approved by the fall when the weather cools down and is a little bit drier,” Dews said. “All of the infrastructure is there already, so the cost to the county will be negligible. I think it will be an asset to the community.”

“We just want something that blends right in in concert with the biking that’s there and the hiking that’s already there. It’s a good thing for the county. Clay County is a beautiful county and the county needs to shift its focus to ecotourism,” Rodatz said.

Morgan said not only will the zoning change bring bikers to the park, it will boost overall usage of the Black Creek Trail.

“So, basically, this is just an opportunity to potentially make better use of the existing park, to put a little bit more life it. Whenever I’ve stopped in the park, there’s only been one or two people in the park and it’s not been very inviting to get out of your car,” Morgan said. “A little more life in the park might make it more inviting and used more completely.”

Morgan said the proposal has been approved by the county’s parks and recreation staff and the mountain bike trail will be installed with volunteers from SORBA Jax.

“The mountain biking community would also be looked upon to provide maintenance for the trail. Parks and Rec would be looking for a formal agreement with SORBA to do that, but we’re not quite that far along yet.”

“I think it’s an excellent idea. When I was a Scout Master, I used to hike my boys up and down the bike path on 17 there and we’d hike back past this location all the time,” said Planning Commission member Michael Bourre of Fleming Island.

Bourre would go on to ask if any lighting was planned for the trail. When he was told that lighting was not in the proposal, he suggested the trail then have posted hours of operation and also be monitored by police.

Morgan responded by saying there has already been a discussion about posting signs about adult supervision, but no plans for establishing hours of operation.

The proposal now goes before the Board of County Commissioners for approval on Aug. 28.

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