Shawnee Bluffs Mountain Bike Park

So there is a zip line course in Southern Illinois, I find that kind of hard to believe.  I can see people in a touristy area on vacation spending 75-85 dollars a pop to do something like this, but here?  It’s been around for a couple of years so it there must be people interested.

The owner has recently decided to expand into mountain biking, he’s had a couple of the major trail building companies give him estimates for a world class mountain bike park.  Now he’s put up a crowdfunding campaign in an attempt to finance the construction of this park.

After reading the campaign I’m blown away by the cost to build trails.  The first phase of the project will require almost 100,000 dollars.  I can’t tell from the documentation but I’m going to make an estimate that this is about 3 miles of trail that wind back and forth over the same hill.  No doubt these trails will be excellent, and I’m sure that I don’t really know just expensive it is to build trails, but… A friend of mine built one of my favorite trails in the Shawnee in his spare time.  It’s a mile long, but no it doesn’t have any berms or places to grab wicked air, but its fun to ride.

If you donate 25 dollars to the campaign you get a day pass to the park, hence a day pass cost 25 dollars.  I can completely understand the charge to come use private land in this way and in the scheme of things 25 dollars isn’t a bad deal considering the cost of building and maintain these trails and the cost of insurance.  I wish Shawnee Bluffs success and hope they are able to make a go of this.  I’m also reminded how thankful I am for the vast amount of public land in the Shawnee National Forest.


About Matt Gholson

Cycling, school teaching, husband.
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6 Responses to Shawnee Bluffs Mountain Bike Park

  1. Shon Hargis says:

    I’m a complete novice in the mountain biking community, but how common is it for people to spend money to ride trails? I can’t imagine having to pay just for the satisfaction of riding a new trail unless there was some form of race or competition involved… or perhaps a charity. I can’t believe that there would be any money in this, but more power to them. We certainly need some new businesses and jobs in Southern IL.

  2. Matt Gholson says:

    Paying to ride isn’t uncommon, but it’s usually a nominal few dollar land access fee, of course that is on non profit managed public lands. I think I’ve ridden two places that required a fee.

    Paying for access to dedicated for profit trails is pretty common. I think at the gravity style parks. I think someone told me it was like 150 dollars to ride at Whistler and get a lift pass or something crazy like that.

    My opinion is that a plan like this would have to be a passion that you don’t really plan to make money with, the ride fees aren’t even going to come close to paying for the liabilities of the business, unless it blows up. I really hope it works out, be a great place to ride and bring interest to the sport and the area.

    • Shon Hargis says:

      Yeah, at resorts with lifts, you have to pay to use the lifts. Supposedly it is free to use the land (in the Rockies, as it is public land), but you have to pay if you want a ‘lift’ to the top of a run. Same thing with skiing.

      I just found the potential price surprising. Still, if it takes off, it could be a boon for the area.

  3. Moe says:

    Just my $0.02.

    Many public lands have user fees to park or use the area. I just came from GA and they have a parking fee to park at the trailheads. Of course that is avoidable if you ride from a different location, but I think it was $5 for a car/truck. Since it was a GA state park and we were paying to camp at a GA state park 10 miles up the road, our hangtag in our car from the campground also worked at the trail head. Paying to ride isn’t something new, but it is something new for SOIL. Just like paying to do a zip line adventure I guess. Everyone has a hillbilly cousin with a piece of cable stretched across a pond filled with scum. But man people skip that, and pay to go do the zipline tour in the Shawnee. I know many people will think “why should I pay when I can ride the shawnee”, but riding in a purpose built mountain bike trail system or park is so much fun. It can never replace the Shawnee, but it is hella fun. I drove over a thousand miles last weekend, and spent hundreds of dollars on lodging and fuel to ride my mountain bike in non mudbog horse shit conditions. Most of our core group rides more cross country style. This mountain bike park will be more of an all mountain style area. There will be some XC stuff, but the “exploration” factor will not last as long. The pump track and skills area along with some seriously technical trails will sharpen all of your skills that you can use anywhere. I think one of the biggest benefits to this making a go will be showing all of the land managers in the area that there IS interest in mountain biking here. Maybe it will open the eyes of the FS, IDNR and others. If they build MTB and trial running trials and charged a $3 parking fee, their income may start going up. The cloudland canyon campground was completely FULL last weekend. The walk in tent sites were $25/night. The RV/ powered sites were more $. You don’t see that around here. The only thing you see full around here is the horse camps for 3 weekends a year, and the trails are full of post holes and mud bogs. The cloudland canyon campground which is a GA state park is connected to the 5 points trail system via a brand new purpose built MTB AND horse trail. The 5 points system allows horses on some trails along with bikes, but only bikes on some. The new trail is about 8 miles long and is awesome. There is a trail that zig zags across it that is bike and foot traffic only. We didn’t even ride that one, but would have if we weren’t so tired. What I’m saying is, I think if there was access to some actual mountain bike trails here that could be advertised (unlike the “illegal” shawnee trails), people would come here to play. The shawnee and SO IL is awesome for recreational activities like that. We just aren’t allowed to utilize it. 😦

  4. Matt Gholson says:

    5 points is a model of how to do things right. That place was awesome and will generate far more economic activity in the area then it took to build and maintain it. Wish we had something like it.

    I think most of these type of limited space. All-Mountain style parks are going to attract non-mountain bikers who want to give it a try but have no bike and no idea where and how to do it. Having rental bikes on hand is going to really help bring in people. If you could rent a bike and ride for say 50 bucks you’d be getting a great deal.

    Anyway, I hope the project works out and the trails get built.

  5. Drew W Blair says:

    My two cents! Just call me and I will take you on some of the most epic mountain bike trails money can buy, not paying IMBA for these trail building costs but money from our fed tax dollars that is, you know, kind of like free but not really, but almost feels like free! We We feel like it is free especially when we have the whole joint to ourselves about 99 times out of 100 but even now with a plethora of horses, those 3 hikers a year we see, now the trail runner that some of the equestrians say are also illegal in the Shawnee, now drones everywhere, thanks Gatt, can’t wait until youngman Joe Ellis finds out about this one, what’s next, you in a lycra body suit in a handglider, handicapped 4 wheelers and of the the legal, seasonal street legal off-roader, we still have lots of fun and wow, does all this activity make us so happy. I will take you to at least 10 different trailheads over here on the east side of the Shawnee and you will just be blown away by the experience and at no entrance fee or cost to you which I think would go against federal regulations anyway! We just want anyone to ride this beautiful area of ours that lies right out our backdoor and have such great fun! Drew Blair from Harrisburg, mountain biker rider here in the great Shawnee NF for 30 years.

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