Support is growing to build mountain bike trails at Eagle Creek Park, the largest city park in Indianapolis, but the idea isn't sitting well with some environmentalists who say trails would hurt the areas bird population.
The Hoosier Mountain Bike Association has collected more than 300 signatures in an online petition, but Indy Parks will ultimately have the decision on whether to allow mountain bike trails.
Supporters of the trail said central Indiana does not offer enough places for Hoosiers to ride, RTV6s Kara Kenney reported.
"(Central Indiana) is still lacking compared to a lot of metropolitan areas around the country," supporter Jonathan Juillerat said. "There's a lot more mountain bikers out there than people realize. It's a very popular sport, and people like to enjoy it, getting in the outdoors that way."
Although there's no specific plan on the table, Juillerat told RTV6 that supporters would like to see around 6 miles of mountain bike trails on the west side of Eagle Creek Park.
"Mountain bikers are chomping at the bit for another place to ride," Juillerat said. "Generally, these trails get built for free on a volunteer basis."
The Amos W. Butler Audubon Society stands in opposition of the trails, pointing to the 15 species of birds on the west side of the park.
The societys president, Don Gorney, said that increased human activity takes a toll on bird populations.
There is a pair of bald eagles that are using the west side of Eagle Creek Park for the first time," Gorney said. Personal observations have shown an increase in human activity decreases certain bird species. If the bike trails come too close, the bald eagles will abandon the nest."
Gorney said he is also concerned because the trials would be multiuse, meaning bird watchers and hikers would share the trail with mountain bikers.
"We'd like to see foot traffic only, which is current policy," Gorney said.
Juillerat told RTV6 that safety is always a concern, which is addressed through education, trail markings and trail design.
"Most people think the sport is like a Mountain Dew commercial, but it's decidedly more boring than that," Juillerat said. "Most mountain bikers are really courteous and know to yield to other users and control their speed."
Juillerat said before the trail is built, they would likely do environmental impact studies to ensure the land would not be negatively impacted.
Indy Parks will host a listening session on the issue at 5:30 p.m. on June 6 at the Pike Performing Arts Center.
Indy Parks officials said they will not make any decisions or vote at the meeting.
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