Editor, The Messenger,

In reference to a statement within the April 19, 2021 Athens Messenger article: House Republicans propose $2 million for Baileys Trail System in the state budget, “But because Athens County and City leaders couldn’t reach an agreement on how to fund the trail the timeline for its construction was upended,” does not accurately reflect the agreed upon development strategy and broad support the Baileys Trail System project has generated. The Outdoor Recreation Council of Appalachia (ORCA), the council of governments managing and developing the Baileys Trail System in partnership with the Wayne National Forest, Athens Bicycle Club and other regional stakeholders, has the full support of members. The unified support for the Baileys Trail System is evidenced by elected officials service to the ORCA Board, as representatives of each governmental jurisdiction member.

The ORCA Board, at their regular board meeting (March 17, 2021), updated ORCA bylaws to utilize a membership fee to support ORCA. This membership fee supports ORCA’s work to secure economic assistance to complete the Baileys Trail System. ORCA Executive Director presented an Ohio Budget support request, which was championed by State Representative Jay Edwards. Representative Edward’s successful addition of $2,000,000 of critical support for the Baileys Trail System in the House GOP budget further exemplifies this project’s ability to galvanize support, on both sides of the aisle, and to catalyze sustainable economic diversification in Southeast Ohio.

Additionally, to clarify “60-mile mountain bike trail”, the Baileys Trail System is designed to be a world-class 88-mile mountain bike optimized trail system, open to all forms of human powered use, featuring trailheads in three local communities, and connectivity to the 23+ mile long Hockhocking Adena Bikeway. The Baileys Trail System has 26 miles of trails open and another 5 under construction now.

Within just six months of opening the Baileys Trail System project received a U.S. Forest Service Chief’s Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Forest Service. Later, the project received the 2020 Honor Award from the U.S. Forest Service’s Eastern Region. This project was also highlighted by Pearl Izumi, an international sports apparel company, which traveled to Chauncey to highlight the Baileys Trail System project in a blog and video post that received thousands of views across the Baileys Trail System’s social media platforms. This national recognition was awarded for the project’s high level of collaboration, innovation, and ability to enhance the regional economy and quality of life. (quotes pasted below)

Baileys Trail System National Recognition Quotes:

“An outstanding example of shared stewardship, the project will create jobs and economic opportunities in some of the Nation’s most disadvantaged and depressed Appalachian communities.” -U.S. Forest Service, 2020 Chief’s Award

“With your exceptional skill at building relationships, you helped create an innovative, multi-use trail system that will provide economic development, community connectivity, job creation, and health benefits for residents in one of Ohio’s poorest counties.” -U.S. Forest Service, Eastern Region 2020 Honor Award

“What happens to a robust region when a once-thriving industry stops and leaves a community searching for a new identity? For the surrounding area of Chauncey, Ohio, it’s growing from the Baileys Trail System.” -Pearl Izumi

Respectfully,

Jessie Powers, Executive Director Outdoor Recreation Council of Appalachia.

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