Bob Downing

Cliff Thompson was impressed by his first peek at Summit Metro Park’s first mountain bike trails.

“It’s awesome,” he said of the nearly 2.75 miles of newly opened trails at Hampton Hills Metro Park on the Akron-Cuyahoga Falls border.

The park district did “a really good job” building three loops for beginners and intermediate mountain bikers, said Thompson, 62, of Sharon Township.

The park district announced on Facebook last week that the long-awaited mountain bike area had quietly opened.

More singletrack, or narrow trails about the width of a bike, for mountain bikers are on the way at Hampton Hills. Four additional miles including a loop for advanced bicyclists are under construction and could open late this year.

The area near Akron’s closed Hardy Road Landfill could grow to up to 16 miles of mountain bike trails in the future, said park district spokesman Nate Eppink.

The park district will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the new mountain bike area at 2092 Theiss Road at 11:30 a.m. June 8. It also will host an open house on the trails from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 11 with vendors and food trucks.

The trails are off-limits to walkers or hikers and to pets. They are limited to mountain bikers only, in part to avoid conflicts and problems between the two groups. The park district has 125 miles of trails open to walkers and hikers.

Summit Metro Parks has invested about $750,000 in the new trails and facilities at Hampton Hills.

Two parking areas, a shelter and kiosk have been built. Permanent rest rooms and a bike fix-it station are planned. A portable toilet is currently in place.

There are two wooded loops with a few man-made trail features such as an S-shaped bridge and wooden ramps added for fun on the south side of the 163-acre tract. One loop is for beginners. A gravel road through a meadow connects to an intermediate loop through the woods at the northern edge.

The loops measure 0.23 miles, 0.65 miles and 0.75 miles. There is also a 1.1-mile one-way intermediate trail that extends to Woodward Creek.

The trails are wide, generally 3 feet, and easy to negotiate. Such trails in other places may be as narrow as 8 to 12 inches. Singletrack trails are typically meant to be ridden by one rider at a given time.

The trails wind through the woods, around banked earthen turns, up hill and down hill. Mounds of dirt have been added to the trails to create uphill challenges and modest downhill runs.

Signs are posted and one-way traffic is mandated along sections of the trails. Helmets are highly recommended.

The area will be closed in the winter and during rainy periods to avoid damage to the trails.

Heavy gravel has been put down to make surfaces harder and that poses a pedaling problem in some spots.

Bicyclist Mark Johnson, 40, of Akron, was very pleased by what he was seeing on his first pedal on the Hampton Hills trails.

“Oh, yeah, we really needed trails like this in Summit County,” he said.

Local mountain bikers have been forced to travel to Bedford, Strongsville, Medina or eastern Portage County to find trails, he said.

The Hampton Hills area is the second mountain biking area to open in Summit County.

Late last year, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park opened a 2.3-mile loop, the East Rim Trail, in Boston Heights. It is a tough, rocky, up-and-down route. A second 6˝-mile trail is under construction in Boston Heights. That trail is expected to open late this year.

Summit Metro Parks encountered problems in building mountain bike rails at Hampton Hills.

The effort by park staffers and volunteers got under way in late 2014. What resulted were trails with turns that were too sharp and trails that lacked flow, according to a Pennsylvania biking expert, Jeremy Wimpey, who inspected the trails.

The trails were acceptable for intermediate riders but not for beginners, he said. Those trails were also built on clay that gets sticky when wet, he said. Those partially built trails will be completed later, park officials said.

Of the new trails, Thompson said, “It’s singletrack mountain biking, and nothing beats singletrack mountain biking. …That’s special. We’ve waited a long time for this.”

Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or bdowning@thebeaconjournal.com.