Stone Eater Bike Park in Lebanon set to be Olympic feeder, builder says

May 7—A world-class mountain biking park has arisen from Boone County's former trash dump.

Generations of Hoosier children will learn the sport at Lebanon's Stone Eater Bike Park. University bicyclists and even Olympians are expected to train here.

Abandoned 40 years ago, the landfill at U.S. 52 and County Road 400 North had become "a difficult environmental asset to manage," John Leitzel, National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) league director, told the audience at a groundbreaking ceremony for the trail building phase of the development Thursday morning.

The county owned site was an eyesore, it was full of trash and weeds. Animals had damaged the dirt cap required to cover the waste. And nobody wanted it, Kevin Davis with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) Office of Land Quality said from the podium.

"Today, Stone Eater Bike Park is an environmentally safe and responsible development," Davis added.

Lebanon Mayor Matthew Gentry, and nearly every other speaker, congratulated and thanked Lebanon City Engineer Kevin Krulik for his years of tireless work through the COVID-19 pandemic, a lawsuit, and exhausting negotiations with IDEM.

The city took over the landfill, filed a lawsuit against the Boone County Plan Commission over a zoning disagreement and won in 2021.

Krulik even took his family to the pastoral park in the country last week to clean up trash and clear trails.

Geese flew overhead during the groundbreaking, their honking competing with one of the speakers.

Krulik had the vison for the park in 2019. He coaches a mountain bike team of local children in grades 6-12.

For Stone Eater, Krulik and the city partnered with Nat Lopes, who owns Hillride Progression Development Group. Lopes designed Olympic bike racing courses for the 2012 London games, 2016 Rio de Janeiro games, and 2022 Beijing games. He has partnered with the cycling association to build a race course here that meets Olympic standards and is also specific to their needs.

Stone Eater's course will be a "feeder for the ultimate stage in the world, the Olympics," Lopes said.

NICA will close the year at Stone Eater in October with its bicycle racing championships.

And Stone Eater's trails will have a crowd-drawing advantage over others in the state and nation, Lopes said. Rain and snow sometimes close other courses.

Stone Eater's trails will be made of material that resists water and should provide year-round use. The trail is divided lengthwise. Boulders of varying heights comprise one side for the more adventurous riders, and the other side is elevated, banked, and even for walkers and water shed.

Some portions will feature a pump track, which is a bumpy section that does not require pedaling but propels riders through a pumping action.

The course will serve riders of all ages and abilities, with a practice field in the center where parents may easily watch their inexperienced children from the sidelines.

City leaders hope Stone Eater will be the go-to venue for other racing events that get washed out of their home parks.

A similar park in Terre Haute was built seven years ago and draws 50,000 visitors annually, Lopes said, adding that it's not even a year-round park.

NuCold Advanced Cold Storage Logistics donated $2 million worth of fill dirt to cap the site and build it up. And Flour, general contractor for Eli Lilly and Co.'s Lebanon complex, donated boulders large and small from its construction site.

Trail construction will take months, Lebanon Parks and Recreation Director John Messenger said. But the park should be open by October, if not earlier. Admission will be free to all in the community.

Marion University's Mountain Bike Team and the Lebanon High School cross country team plan to use the facility. And community runners, walkers, and other sports enthusiasts are expected to use it as well.

There will be no concession stand, but food trucks may come during races and other events, Messenger said. Future plans for the family friendly park, as funding allows, include water on site, a shelter, playgrounds, and more amenities.

It will immediately feature staging areas for emergency medical services, score keeping, photography, and other plug-and-play features needed for mountain biking and BMX racing events, Lopes said.

The park is named after Native American War Chief Stone Eater, who operated under the Tecumseh Federation that fought in the Battle of Tippecanoe, Fort Harrison, and other areas in Indiana.

Krulik worked with Stone Eater's Wea Tribe of Indiana and their federal Peoria Tribe of Oklahoma to gain endorsement for the name.

About a quarter of Boone County was a Native American Reservation in the 1800s, and signs around the park will offer their history. Stone Eater's tribe was moved from Boone County to Oklahoma in the 1800s.