Lee County officials announced the indefinite closing of San-Lee Park’s Gravity Park bike trail following a serious injury.
The section of bike trail was shut down on April 7 as Parks and Recreation officials review safety standards and maintenance needs.
According to County Manager John Crumpton, Gravity Park has seen seven “serious” injuries in the past year, prompting the move. The most recent injury of an 11-year-old boy occurred over the weekend.
“We are appreciative of the many volunteer hours that have gone into building and maintaining the bike trails that are enjoyed by many, but the county also has a responsibility to the public to ensure the bike trails are accessible and safe for the average bike rider that is most likely to visit and utilize our trails,” Crumpton said in a press release. “Trail volunteers have been given much discretion in developing and expanding the bike trails over the years; however, in recent years, bike trails have been expanded and modified in ways that have significantly increased trail difficulty levels creating a section of trail that is not safe for use by the average mountain bike rider.
“Trails were also intended to blend into the natural environment but some trail modifications and features do the opposite and disrupt the natural scenery and wildlife habitats of the park. These are concerns that must be addressed.”
WRAL reported on Friday that injuries on the trail have included broken bones and head injuries. Four people have been airlifted to hospitals, including the 11-year-old on Easter weekend.
According to the county, San-Lee’s original bike trail was built 20 years ago, largely by volunteers who have continued to expand and maintain it over the years.
Crumpton said the county will create a bike trail safety committee that includes representatives of the local mountain biking community and county staff. The committee will inspect bike trails on a monthly basis and review data on accidents and injuries reported. The county is also halting additional trail expansion for the time being.
“We understand that there will be members of the mountain biking community that are disappointed by the planned trail modifications, but the county priority is improving the safety of the bike trails for all riders and in creating an environment where riders of all ages and skill levels can safely enjoy biking in the natural environment and setting of San-Lee Park,” Crumpton said.
Photo: San-Lee Mountain Bike Trail Facebook page