by Randy Gregory
Mountain biking has grown exponentially over the last several years both as a hobby and a sport in the United States and around the world. The Grand Rapids area has several trails of varying difficulty and has been named by Outside magazine as a “Best Town for Mountain Biking.” Now, local mountain bikers have a new trail option in West Michigan.
Merrell Trail recently opened (Sept. 29, 2012) on the southeast side of 10 Mile Road and U.S. 131 in Plainfield Township. Merrell Trail presently includes six miles of trail on sloping tree-lined land on the southern end of a parcel of land leased by Plainfield Township from Kent County.
Merrell footwear is the primary sponsor of the trail and is a wholly owned sudsidiary of Rockford based Wolverine Worldwide. The West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance was the primary mover in constructing the trail with over 3,000 volunteer hours contributed towards making Merrell Trail an enjoyable experience for riders of every degree of experience and ability.
“Kent County presented us with the opportunity to develop the trail before the sports complex was built. They wanted to have all types of recreational opportunities available to the public,” said Kevin Allen, president of the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance. “This was a golden opportunity and we were ready to roll. But it isn’t just for mountain bikers alone. if you are a runner or like to hike that opportunity is there as well.
Scott TenCate and Rick Plite, local mountain biking enthusiasts, were the vanguard for local efforts to construct the trail. The alliance also obtained the services of Alex Stewart to design and build the trails. Stewart is a professional trail designer who is well known for building the very popular mountain biking trails in Brown County, Ind.
“The trails are designed for the medium-skilled mountain biker with some technical trails for the truly advanced,” said Allen. “Now we have a little bit of Brown County here in Michigan. The trail is very, very nice – world-class.”
In an effort to maximize the riding experience, Merrell Trail will flow in one direction on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. It will travel the opposite direction on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday to give riders a different flow and minimize wear by having the same path ridden day after day.
Eventual plans call for the trail to reach eight miles in all. The entrance to Merrell Trail is on a gravel access drive behind Macatawa Bank directly across from the Meijer on 10 Mile Road. When the Art Van Sports Complex is complete it will truly make the little stretch of land there a destination for outdoor enthusiasts of countless activities. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed and it’s free!