Republicans in the Ohio House of Representatives are considering financing $2 million for construction of the Baileys Trail System as part of the GOP’s version of the state budget bill.
The proposed infusion of cash could dramatically accelerate the rate at which the premier 60-mile mountain biking trail is constructed.
Baileys Trail — expected upon completion to be the longest contiguous trail system east of the Mississippi River — was billed with the potential to facilitate economic development in Athens County, with the hope that such a novel attraction could captivate tourists to visit and spend money at local business while in town.
But because Athens County and city leaders couldn’t reach an agreement on how to fund the trail, the timeline for its construction was upended. In turn, the Outdoor Recreation Council of Appalachia (ORCA), which manages the project, had been forced to primarily finance the trail system through state and federal grants that are labor intensive and time consuming to obtain. Smaller sources like crowdfunding have also been employed. Many miles of trail have already been constructed, with more expected this spring.
“I am delighted to see such significant funds go towards this trail system that prioritizes the ability to connect communities through outdoor recreation. I am confident that Bailey’s Bike Trail will have positive regional impact on Appalachian Ohio,” Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville), who worked to include the provision, said in a statement.
OCRA Director Jessie Powers said late last year that without a substantial source of financing beyond grants, the path forward for the trail system could be excruciating. If the legislature is able to approve $2 million to be included in the state budget, the Baileys could quickly attain “destination-worthy” status from the International Mountain Biking Association, a highly sought after designation, she said.
“I’m elated and thankful for Representative Edwards leadership and Representative Stuart and the Ohio House support of our catalytic project, which enables the Baileys Trail System to enhance overall quality of life by providing economic, health, social, and environmental benefits to Athens County residents and Ohioans,” Powers said in a text message.