Reader concerned off-road biking will damage beloved park

Reader concerned off-road biking will damage beloved park

I write to express my concern and opposition to the off-road bicycling competition held within Willowbranch Park every Thursday during the month of October. This event that happens each fall creates scars across the landscape that may take years to recover. 

As an off-road cyclist and a Riverside resident, I, too, understand the particular enjoyment of this sport in the right environment. But Willowbranch Park is not the right environment. This small, fragile neighborhood park, an island of green within an urban neighborhood, cannot accommodate this kind of intense usage in addition to the usual wear and tear it is regularly subjected to on a weekly basis. 

Trails off-road bicyclists Willowbranch Park
Trails are defined by blue tape when the off-road bicyclists use Willowbranch Park in October.

These events should be held in a location with an existing off-road bicycling trail, as can be found at the Tilly Fowler Park. 

Furthermore, during these events many vehicles are also brought into Willowbranch Park, including trucks, SUV’s, and supporting/transport vehicles. By riding on the temporarily defined trails, the 35-50 participants target wetlands and boggy areas, which soon enough have been turned into a series of unsightly mud wallows, connected by trenches carved into the ground due to hundreds of bicycle tires covering the same path.  Last year’s event so damaged the park, that two groups, Plant Parenthood and the AIDS Memorial Project of NE Florida, designed and installed a garden to help repair those scars so that the topography of the park would not be permanently changed. This bicycling event is clearly too intense for this well- loved neighborhood park. I join many concerned neighbors and community groups who are adamantly opposed to this kind of activity being held at this location. It must be discontinued before Willowbranch Park is permanently disfigured and its wooded and pastoral beauty is lost forever. 

Richard A. Ceriello 

President of the Board of Directors 

AIDS Memorial Project of NE Florida.

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