Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Group wants mountain bike trails

KEY LARGO -- A newly-formed bicycle association has submitted paperwork to state officials seeking permission to open up closed trails for a mountain bike course, complete with obstacles and technical features, inside Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park.

Steve Troeger, who opened a bicycle shop in the Pink Plaza about six months ago, has since focused his attention on making the Upper Keys more user-friendly for cyclists by founding the Key Largo Bicycle Association.

Troeger says opening the trails in the park would provide a new attraction for visitors as well as serve local biking enthusiasts. Biking is already allowed in the park, but only in certain areas that require minimal skill.

"Our hope is that district managers will recognize these benefits and agree to accept the risk of additional terrain features built on these types of trail systems akin to those on other state parks land, such as Amelia Earhart Park in North Hialeah, the Oleta River State Park in North Miami Beach and Virginia Key in Key Biscayne," Troeger wrote in his proposal to the Florida Park Service.

Troeger's group is interested in building and maintaining trails in an area of the park that was to have been the Port Bouganville development, before legal challenges and other factors in the early 1980s put an end to the project.

Troeger has also provided an application for a state grant specifically written for creating bicycle trails. He said the project could cost upwards of $100,000 if all the desired features are approved.

"That proposal has been sent up the line," said Pat Wells, who manages Dagny Johnson and John Pennekamp Coral Reef state parks.

Wells offered little insight into the appropriateness or possibility of the mountain bike feature, saying only that he would do what his superiors told him. He did say, though Troeger's submission was detailed, the state would likely ask for more information before making a decision.

The association has reached out to another avid cyclist for help -- newly elected state Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo. Troeger is expected to meet with one of Raschein's aides later this week, her office confirmed.

Raschein, who had not been briefed on Troeger's application when she spoke to the Free Press, said she supported the idea as long as it's not harmful to the environment.

"We need to better utilize the park," Raschein said.

The Key Largo Bicycle Association has begun circulating a petition asking the public to support the trail, which he said would be available for hikers to use as well. Those interested in signing the petition can find a copy at All Keys Cycles in the Pink Plaza.

jgore@keysnews.com

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