A former landfill in Lebanon could become the latest area site for cyclocross races drawing riders from around the U.S. and across the globe.
The City of Lebanon is applying for a state grant to help pay for construction of a $275,000 bike park on the 48-acre site of the city’s former landfill.
The city is also negotiating with an area company for naming rights on the park off Turtlecreek-Union Road and the Ohio 48 Bypass in Lebanon.
In recent years, area entries in the Ohio Valley Cyclocross (OVCX) series have drawn as many as 800 competitors from 38 states and nine countries, according to the Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“It started out you might see 40 participants,” said Mitch Graham, director of the OVCX series for 13 years. “Now you’re getting upwards of 350 to 800.”
Bike racing on landfills
Cyclocross is a form of bike racing involving on- and off-roads sections, including steep hills and other obstacles. It attracts riders already competing in mountain-bike and cross country races.
OVCX races are held around the Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Lexington and Louisville area. Last year, a 13-race series was held.
The park is envisioned as a tourist attraction, as well as an amenity for residents and others interested in mountain-bike riding and other bike recreation and sports.
Lebanon closed its 45-acre landfill 25 years ago. Plans to convert it into a bike park were unveiled by the local parks and recreations board.
“Most of these parks are former landfills,”Graham said last week.
Former landfills are also envisioned as bike parks and racing locations in places such as Los Angeles County, Calif., and Lincoln, Neb.; and under development or in use in spots including Staten Island, N.Y.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Boulder, Colo.; West Roxbury, Mass.; Raleigh, N.C. and Vancouver, B.C.
This trend in adaptive reuse comes in response to the growing demand and shortage of available land for off-road or mountain bike facilities in Ohio, across North America and the rest of the world.
“It’s good for all who live there,” Adam Rourke, Adopt-A-Trail coordinator for the Little Miami Scenic Trail, said last year. “It attracts tourists.”
Cyclocross races in Ohio, Ohio Valley
Plans for design of Lebanon’s former landfill fit the profile the OVCX series is looking for, according to Graham.
Over the former landfill Lebanon plans to include perimeter and mountain-bike trails, and courses for cyclocross races and skills development, as well as a “pump track” and “jump line” popular with the off-road bikers.
“I rode my bike there to take a look at it a few years ago,” said Graham, who also owns Biowheels, a bike shop in Milford, a Cincinnati suburb and location of another 2015 competition. “That would definitely be one we would look at.”
Last year, OVCX races were also held at Harbin Park in Fairfield in Butler County and John Bryan State Park in Greene County. Races have also been held at Eastwood Park in Montgomery County.
There are mountain bike trails in Montgomery and Warren counties and areas set aside for BMX, another form of off-road bike racing, in Centerville and Kettering parks.
The growing interest in off-road bike racing goes beyond the excitement of participation or observation of extreme sports competitions or the attraction of visiting new places.
Riders attract corporate sponsors as well as prize money. Winners of last year’s OVCX events split $1,500, with $300 going to the top rider.
Lebanon opportunities, costs
The Lebanon park could fill a hole left if commercial or residential development envisioned on the former Kingswood Golf Course in Mason comes to fruition.
Next week, the Lebanon City Council is expected to approve an application for a $150,000 Clean Ohio Fund Recreational Trails Program grant to offset development costs. The city has also requested $45,000 in state general funds for the project through the Warren County Chamber Alliance, according to city officials.
“There’s no guarantee that either one is going to get funded,” Lebanon City Manager Pat Clements said during a work session last week.
Use of the former landfill, to be named Turtlecreek-Union Park, Lebanon saves the city on land costs.
The city also plans to use $40,000 in civic and corporate donations, $25,000 raised from a run at the Lebanon Blues Festival and save $10,000 through an in-kind donation from Fecon, a local company. The city could also draw on $71,000 in impact fees collected on local developments.
Drawing the race to Lebanon is projected to result in $700,000 in “economic impact” from riders and other visitors dining in area restaurants, lodging in local hotels or visiting other area attractions.
It would add another tourist draw for Warren County, which considers tourism its No. 1 industry, and Lebanon, already known as the home of the Applefest, Christmas Carriage Parade and Festival and the Golden Lamb, the oldest continuously operating hotel in the country.
“It will help propel Lebanon from a sleepy antique town to a fun, trendy place to live and visit,” K.C. Stallings, a Lebanon resident and owner of two area bike shops, said during a presentation to city council last year.