The construction of Baileys Trail will help with the ecotourism industry in Athens and Southeast Ohio.
Southeast Ohio hosts thousands of visitors each year all coming in for ecotourism, which is a form of tourism that recreates in and fosters healthy ecosystems, equitable community development and fair financial gains. Activities include hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and appreciating nature.
Hocking College's Ecotourism & Adventure Leadership program has been a program in some form for over 20 years.
The major offers classes like sustainable trail development that will help drive ecotourism in the future, as tourists have new trails to explore. Faculty members, such as Scott Kreps and Andrew Bashaw, are working with Appalachian Conservation Corps, or ACC, toward placing students on future trail crews that will be building Baileys Trail.
“In addition to the trail crew possibilities, our students will find opportunities such as leading eco-guided mountain-bike tours,” Kreps, a professor of ecotourism at Hocking College, said.
An outcome for the trail-building course is to have students understand different design options. There could be additional opportunities for students to collaborate with the ACC and conservation legacy programs, Kreps said.
Baileys Trail is a 88-mile mountain biking trail system that will stretch through the communities of Chauncey, Nelsonville, Butchel and Athens. The hope is that the trail will boost economies in the areas and provide new health benefits through ecotourism.
“The Baileys Trail System working group continues to remain vigilant in their sensitivity to the ecosystems, communities, and profit of this project,“ Kreps said. “Responsibly and environmentally-minded tourism will attract individuals who may choose to forgo a flight to an exotic location and drive a couple of hours to have some of the best fun they've had on an amazing mountain bike trail in Southeast Ohio.”
Hiking is the most popular activity for the region, showing that ecotourism is already a big part of Hocking, according to the Hocking Hills Tourism Center’s website. The most attractive tourist places to hike are Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls and Ash Cave.
“(Baileys Trail) capitalizes on the national aspects of the region and encourage visitors to come here who might not have another reason to come here, and that’s an important role that I think ecotourism plays for us,” Paige Alost, executive director of Athens County Visitors Bureau, said.
Alost said this is a unique part of Ohio for biking, kayaking and motorcycling.
“It’s such a unique part of Ohio. We always say we’re the other Ohio,” Alost said. “The rest of Ohio doesn’t look like that.”
A previous version of this report incorrectly stated the length of Bailey’s Trail and when the program was established for Hocking College. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.