The Marietta Trail Network has recently opened a new system that offers features unique to Marietta and the surrounding region. Located adjacent to the Pioneer Golf Center off Pike Street behind the Lowe’s building, Gunlock Park is a Marietta city property that has been reclaimed and planted with trees through a partnership among RG Properties, the City of Marietta, American Electric Power, the Ohio Division of Forestry and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. This young, 24-acre bottomland forest plot has recently reached sufficient maturity for its development as a park open to public access.
Ryan Smith, co-owner of the Marietta Adventure Company, realized this park’s potential for recreational and fitness activities and set out over a year ago to make his vision a reality. He helped to secure a grant from McKee Foods, and with additional funding and assistance from the City of Marietta, the Marietta Community Foundation, the Marietta Adventure Company and the River Valley Mountain Bike Association, construction on Gunlock Park began.
The results so far offer bicyclists and hikers of nearly all ability levels something worth visiting again and again.
The first project developed there used the McKee Foods grant to build what is known as a “pump track.” Constructed from sculpted dirt with an asphalt surface, it allows bicyclists to generate momentum and maintain speed by using pedaling and body position on the bicycle to navigate a looped series of undulations and banked turns. This facility offers a fun workout and the chance to develop bike-handling skills for both beginners and experts alike.
Additionally, the open area next to the pump track now offers a number of BMX-style jump lines of varying difficulty that include table tops and doubles. These features allow for a progression of skill development for riders seeking to improve their bicycle jumping abilities. Obviously, riders should always wear protective equipment and ride within their ability levels on these jumps, as well as always follow posted rules and notices.
Smith mentions that since the closure of the area’s BMX tracks some years ago, there is nowhere else in the region open to the public that has these type of features. He also notes that this is just the beginning phase of the jump portion of Gunlock Park, and that more jump lines will be constructed in the near future.
Gunlock Park’s acreage extends all the way to the Ohio River’s edge, and the forested areas of the park currently have two signed, singletrack-style trails on them. Smith advises that these trails have wide corridors with minimal elevation change, making them ideal for beginner mountain bikers and hikers.
The River Loop Trail skirts the perimeter of the park through the woods and offers views of nearby farmland and the Ohio River. The Bird Land Trail weaves through the center of the property and provides stretches of wide-open bottomland with beautiful, big-sky views that can leave hikers or bikers wondering if they are still really in southeastern Ohio, let alone within Marietta city limits. As the name suggests, birds are abundant on this trail, and a diversity of wildflowers and trees, including oak, hemlock, birch and maple stands may be seen on both trails. Smith says that there are currently plans for the construction of more trail on the remaining property.
Those wishing to contribute to the ongoing development and upkeep of Gunlock Park may contact Smith at the Marietta Adventure Company on Second Street in Marietta for information about upcoming work days. Financial contributions may also be made specifically for Gunlock Park through the Marietta Community Foundation’s Trail Maintenance Fund (for more information, visit http://www.mcfohio.org/).