• Jordan D. Smith

Hike and Bike Trail Opens to Public

Under gray skies, several dozen Portlanders met Saturday at the Portland High School softball field parking lot to mark the opening of the newly constructed Portland Hike and Bike Trail. Located just west of Portland High School on Ionia Road, the new trails, constructed by local volunteers over the past year, is 5.5 miles long and winds through gently sloping grassy fields and wooded groves making for a varied terrain. The system boasts four trails of various difficulties and distances to challenge bikers and hikers of all skill levels.

The project is the brainchild of local teacher Andrew Pulling. Pulling who teaches physical education and health at Portland High School says, the idea started a few years back when he received a grant from The Specialized Foundation to purchase mountain biking equipment for use in his classes. The school now has a fleet of 25 mountain bikes and gym students at Portland learn mountain biking skills as part of the PE curriculum. That grant led Pulling to seek out places for his classes to bike. PHS has several acres of undeveloped property west of the school which seemed ideal. The school is built on the site of a former gravel mining operation which according to Pulling creates perfect terrain for mountain biking all within close proximity of the school.

In addition to supporting the PE classes in their mountain biking unit, “it is really going to help support our cross country teams, track teams and phys-ed classes getting out in nature,” Pulling says. He says that he has even has conversations with teachers in other subject areas eager to find additional ways to use the trail. For instance, spanish classes may practice vocabulary while walking the trails. “As soon as we have the facility to do something, the professionals really start getting creative and how to use it,” he observed. While the idea was originally for use by the school, the plans expanded to allow the whole community to enjoy the trails.

At the grand opening, Pulling recognized those who helped support the project including the Portland Public Schools administration and school board, and the City of Portland. According to Portland City Manager Tutt Gorman, “the city and the schools have done a lot of collaborative projects and it really makes things work really well. In most communities the schools and municipalities do not get along really well at all and that isn’t the case here.” This project was supported by number of non-profit organizations including: the Michigan Running Foundation, the League of Michigan Bicyclists, Mid Michigan Mountain Biking Association, and the Specialized Foundation. A number of businesses also helped bring this project to completion including: TrailSense, Dan’s Bike Shop, Cook Brother Excavating, Playmers, Michigan Steel and Trim, ConfluxCity Brewing Company, and graphic artist Kyle Pierce. Pulling says they also owe a great deal to the dozens of volunteers who provided labor to clear and build the trails over the past year.

“This has been fun. This has been a lot of fun. And it’s really cool to see the community come together and supporting it and using it and I hope that you spread the word.” The trailhead is located at the softball field parking lot just past the PHS main entrance on Ionia Road. The trails are open dawn to dusk outside of school hours but are closed during school hours, at night, and when the trials are muddy. For more information, readers are encouraged to follow the Portland Hike and Bike Trails on Facebook and Instagram @PH&BT.

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