Minnetonka’s off-road bikers may soon have their own trails, now that the City Council has allotted $130,000 for their construction in 2018.

The money was earmarked in the city’s Capital Improvements Program, which the council approved on June 12.

One concept plan includes a couple of 2-mile trails, each 18 inches wide, in Civic Center Park and Big Willow Park and connected by a mile-long stretch of a commuter trail that runs along Minnetonka Boulevard. The trails would be designed for beginning to intermediate riders and separated from walking and biking trails for safety.

Mountain biking advocates have pushed for more than a year to get funding for the trails, which they say would be the first designated off-road biking trails in Minnetonka.

Ben Marks, a Minnetonka resident and mountain bike trail advocate, started the movement to build the trails through conversations he had with city officials about 15 months ago. He said he wanted trails specifically for off-road biking so they could be sustainable, instead of the undesignated, multiuse trails that have developed naturally throughout Minnetonka.

“That was really the motivation behind us beginning to work with the city to develop these designated trails,” he said.

Marks, who is president of a wealth management group, said he’s not “that guy” who advocates for causes. “I just lit the match,” he said.

He worked with a group of Minnetonka High School students through the Vantage program to raise funds and conduct a feasibility study for construction of the trails. Students in the program partner with professionals to develop projects in various fields.

The students raised $5,000 for the feasibility study, which they presented to the city’s Park Board last November. The board recommended that the City Council allot an estimated $130,000 needed to construct the trails from the Park and Trail Improvement Fund.

Zane Bush, a 17-year-old Vantage student working with Marks, said off-road biking is popular in Minnetonka, with local club teams attracting 30 to 50 members each.

“It’s a huge community,” Bush said. “The difficulty is ... there’s not mountain bike trails within 20 or 30 minutes from here.”

Kelly O’Dea, Minnetonka recreation services director, said the process is still early, and the Park Board could go back and forth with the City Council over project proposals.

O’Dea said that implementation of off-road biking trails was a common request in the city’s 2016 public survey. However, some residents opposed the idea due to safety concerns and possible park changes.

Marks said opponents either misunderstand what mountain biking is or “think it’s their park.” Those in favor of the project far outnumber those opposed, he said.


Twitter: @jarahsarvis