GREAT FALLS — Biking has proven to be an extremely popular activity during COVID-19, so the timing couldn’t have been better for the city of Great Falls to open the new River’s Edge Skillz Trail.
The course is just off the 67th St. trail head northeast of town. It’s been open for more than a week, but on Saturday there was a welcome event and barbecue with raffle prizes. Great Falls trails coordinator Steffen Janikula said the project only cost about $1,000 and it mostly used re-purposed materials.
"For the mountain biking community, I've been kicking around the idea of a bike trail such as this for about two years now," Janikula said. "And the pieces just finally got put together. We started construction on it in the fall, and I'm really happy with the way the course turned out. And I know the mountain bikers are happy."
The course is a gentle half-mile downhill with plenty of variety: rollers, banked turns, tabletops, teeter-totters and skinnies. Chris Stieh, service shop manager at Scheels, worked with Janikula on the development of the course, and he said the design is great for those just getting started and even intermediate riders.
"For first-time riders, if they're traveling six, seven miles to go for a bike ride out in the prairie here, and they don't have those skills, they'll get discouraged and they could possibly get hurt," he said. "So we wanted to have some place closer where they could practice. Other riders could meet them there and kind of show them the finer points of the balance and obstacle avoidance."
Stieh added, "I’m a fairly intermediate rider and I have a good time riding out here on this. This is just right."
Those who showed up on Saturday got tips and pointers, but the course is open for bikers at anytime, just make sure to follow all the rules that apply to the rest of the River’s Edge Trail.
Janikula and Stieh would love to expand with steeper terrain in the future, but for now, there’s a little bit for everyone. For more information on the new course, call the Great Falls Park and Recreation office at 406-771-1265.