Saturday, January 14, 2017

Glacier Hills County Park

The pine plantation is one of the only flat spots on these trails.

Today I went for a solo hike at Glacier Hills County Park in southern Washington County. I spent most of my time on the black loop—at roughly 2.5 miles, it’s the park’s longest trail. In Tuesday’s blog post I mentioned that Glacier Hills has some potential as a mountain biking venue, and I was thinking of the black loop in particular. Due to extremely icy conditions, today I saw the trail at a very slow pace. I came away with the impression that it’s a place where, in spring and summer, I would enjoy riding my mountain bike ... if that were permitted.

But would enough people enjoy it? Existing trails at Glacier Hills are wide, straight and not in the least technical. Their outstanding feature is their elevation change: a succession of long climbs and descents with very little flat ground. Riding there would be a real aerobic challenge, but it would not be a bike handling challenge. Without singletrack, the appeal of Glacier Hills might be too limited. The park covers 140 acres, so there’s plenty of space for new trails. And it could work just like New Fane: separate trail systems for hikers and mountain bikers, minimizing potential conflicts. But to make the park a true mountain biking destination would require hundreds of volunteer hours. Washington County is looking to save money on parks, not to take on new development.

Glacier Hills really is the only county park property suitable for mountain biking, and adding to the argument is the fact that the growing Richfield/Hubertus area isn’t close to any existing mountain bike trails. If you live in that area, then where do you go to ride? Our regional IMBA chapter looked at a different property not far from there, but no development resulted. Now that the Pleasant Valley and Port Washington trails are done in Ozaukee County, would the IMBA guys take on a new project at Glacier Hills? The first step is to remove Washington County’s exclusion of bikes from its park trails, something we can request at these public input sessions:

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