QUEENSBURY — If you hire a mountain biker as your parks and recreation director, you might just get a premier mountain biking park.
“I guess I was the main culprit,” said Director Steven Lovering as he described the decision to build 19 bike trails over the course of several years at Gurney Lane Recreation Area.
“I’ve been mountain biking since the ’90s, and there’s just not a lot of places to ride here,” he said.
So, 10 years ago, he and other bike enthusiasts looked at the town’s property to see where they could build trails.
Gurney Lane already had bathrooms, a pool and picnic areas.
“It’s a good foundation for an activity like that. The whole family can go,” he said.
The town added new trails every year, slowly creating a location that now draws riders from other states.
“The trail system is probably the best in the area. They’re all professionally made and maintained,” he said.
Last year, the town also started a winter bike race to highlight the winter bike trails now being groomed and maintained by town employees. This year’s race is on Saturday. It’s getting a great response.
“There are not a lot of places to ride in the wintertime,” Lovering said. “This is part of our goal to make Gurney Lane a destination.”
Three local businesses bought the trail groomer that the town uses for winter trails. North Country Subaru, Grey Ghost Bicycles and Underdog Timing are donating the groomer.
It creates a trail that is firm and smooth, like a groomed cross-country trail, but narrower. This year, the town has groomed eight trails for winter biking, when the riders use what are known as “fat bikes,” in reference to the tires, which are 3 to 4 inches wide. Three other trails have been left in a natural state for cross-country skiing, and four others are open for walkers.
In preparation for Saturday’s races, Niles Gagnon of Grey Ghost Bicycles took his fat bike to the park on Thursday to check out the conditions.
“The snow that is there is starting to firm up,” he said.
He started winter riding just because he missed his bike.
“Just being able to extend the season,” he said.
He quickly fell in love with it.
“Just being in the woods in the wintertime is really cool,” he said. “When the conditions are really good, it’s not like riding in the summer. It’s a completely different experience.”
Among other differences, the bike can slide around corners if there’s a decent amount of snow. And grooming can create the feeling of a smooth trail, but in the woods, where mountain bikers are usually going over rocks and tree roots.
“It makes it really awesome to ride,” he said.
The fat tires make riding the bike in the snow easy.
“The bikes handle really nice, actually,” he said.
On Saturday, he’ll have fat bikes available for riders to try out for brief periods. Grey Ghost also rents fat bikes for up to three days at a time in the winter.
The park is open on weekends and school vacations, as well as most snow days, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is also sledding, and ice skating later in the winter. There’s also free cocoa in a heated building to help people warm up, and the bathrooms are open as well. It is located at 118 Gurney Lane Road, Queensbury.