Finishing touches put on Back Roads Biking routes in county

Special to the Enterprise
This sign located just west of Barnesville-Bradfield Airport is one of many in western Belmont County marking the new backroad tours

The Ohio Valley Trail Association is putting the finishing touches on its new Back Roads Biking routes in the western part of Belmont County.

The group of volunteers, along with the Community Improvement Corp. of Belmont County, installed close to 100 signs marking the various loops plus printed brochures with information.

“We want to thank the township trustees in Union, Kirkwood, Warren and Goshen townships, the county engineer, and the village councils in Belmont, Bethesda and Barnesville who supported these efforts, gave us ideas, and understand the importance of these efforts,” said Rich Sidwell, co-chairman of OVTA.

The routes consist of over 50 miles of riding mainly back roads of gravel or tar and chip.

In order to help local businesses such as restaurants and stores, the loops also go through as many of the villages as possible. The routes are not for novice riders.

“This group has worked tirelessly for several years on the concept of Rails-to-Trails in Belmont County, but they were met with roadblock after roadblock,” said Crystal Lorimor, executive director of the CIC. “I posed to them the idea a few years ago about approaching it differently.

One of the fastest growing segments of cycling the last few years has been gravel road biking. We have plenty of gravel roads and beautiful scenery.”

As the group ponders the next routes to implement, cyclists have already been out enjoying the new routes.

“The feedback so far has been great. Runners and hikers have also stopped us as we were installing signs and expressed their happiness about the routes,” Sidwell said.

“Having recreational opportunities creates a better quality of life and economic development follows, whether it be new markets for existing small businesses or brand new business opportunities for entrepreneurs,” Lorimor said.

As the businesses start seeing cyclists, there are things the businesses can do to tap into these potential customers.

A community might create a sticker for business windows indicating a “Bike Friendly” business, which could be one that has a bike rack for parking while the cyclists eat, for example, or a business that is willing to refill their water bottles.

“It’s about being welcoming to the potential customers. Is there ‘parking’ for their mode of transportation? What else might they need that we can provide?” Lorimor added.

“The CIC has been saying for several years, and we were happy to work with this group on this project, that economic development is different than it used to be.

If people were in doubt before the pandemic, they should be believers now. People can choose where they want to live, first.

Then they either create the job they want by starting a business, or they can work remotely for another company. We are seeing it all over the country now. We have to be able to keep employees here.”

If anyone wants help starting a business or if an existing business needs assistance, they can contact the CIC at 740-695-9678 or at lorimor@belmontcic.com.

The CIC also created a new website with resources to get entrepreneurs started, www.buildbelmont.com .

For more information about the bike routes available or to contact the OVTA, visit the Facebook page at Ohio Valley Trail Association.