23 Aug 2014
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Lions, Tigers and Mountain Bikers, Oh My!

Geneva, you really need to loosen up a bit!

Lions, Tigers and Mountain Bikers, Oh My! Lions, Tigers and Mountain Bikers, Oh My! Lions, Tigers and Mountain Bikers, Oh My!

Shades of Altamont! By the tone of some of your over-the-top reactions you’d think those Hells Angels were taking up permanent residence in Wheeler Park. Why do I suddenly expect a group of downtown Genevans to break into a chorus from The Music Man?

Of course, something like that might make a heck of a lot more interesting.

And this time it’s ! I swear, some of you have way too much time on your hands. The next thing you know we’ll be taking on hippies and consarned rock 'n' roll music.

Though my June 11 presence at the County Board meeting was aimed at the outcome of the ages-old ethics ordinance debate, once that fandangle was finally settled, my good friend and Geneva businessman Rob Kelley convinced me to stay put for the Fabyan Task Force meeting.

That task force consists of members like Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns, Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke, and County Board member Mike Donahue, all of whom are charged with planning the redevelopment of the 750-acre which is bordered by the river, the Union Pacific tracks, and Kirk and Fabyan Roads.

And I gotta tell you, even though these meetings are more boring than our midsommar festival, I’m glad I attended this one, because that group has come up with a pretty exciting plan.

We’re talking a, some resort hotels, all sorts of park and athletic amenities, a golf course, a fishing pond, and, of course, mountain biking trails.

Ah! But we all know nothing good ever comes to Geneva without a boatload of the appropriate and unnecessary hysteria.

Both , home of the Kane County Cougars, and the were supposed to herald the end of western suburban civilization. I’ll never forget the resident who told an elected official that she couldn’t endure the horror of telling visitors they’d have to turn right at . We won’t even mention the South Street skate board park.

The public outrage at this particular meeting centered around whether those mountain bike trails would stay in Fabyan Woods or be moved to an adjacent open area. Of course, the mountain bikers prefer the forest, while the Fox Run subdivision residents don’t want to have to endure as much as an access trail through those woods.

While that kind of diametrical opposition is to be expected, just how far the subdivisionites were willing to go in depicting mountain bikers as godless barbarians was not. Their ringleader, Kathleen T. Valle, the kind of pleasant-looking little old lady you’d want to help across the street, made Karl Rove look like a rank amateur.

She painted mountain biking aficionados as an evil cabal of lawless thrill-seekers bent on running over as many small children and little dogs as they possibly could.

Ms. Valle complained that her preservation group had received a plethora of similarly worded online comments, which could only be the result of a high-level conspiracy. As one mountain biker put it, all it really means is they’re organized.

She went on to describe in detail the insistent raping, pillaging and looting of those woods, when the truth is these mountain bikers have been riding back there for the better part of two decades, and that proud old forest is still stands generally unscathed.

In fact, the cyclists have actually chased away some rather nefarious characters who tried to make that hidden area their home.

After she took them to task for their “choice of vocabulary,” Ms. Valle went on to say she didn’t include any of the positive mountain biker comments because “we are trying to save the forest from exploitation,” which is utterly disingenuous when you consider the construction of her subdivision has wrought more ecological damage than Fabyan mountain bikers ever have or will.

These stop-at-nothing homeowners went as far as co-opting the heart attack death of rider Rob Manderson, whom they fictitiously claimed died of a broken neck while riding those trails.

As anyone who’s ever seen me on my Trek mountain bike will attest, Ms. Valle’s final contention that mountain biking is an “extreme sport” is patently ludicrous. While you’ll find daredevils in any athletic endeavor, the only way you could apply the word “extreme” to me is if you put it before the words “slow” or “cautious."

The real irony here is, while my road-biking brethren are generally a surly, arrogant and obnoxious bunch, mountain bikers are the Zen Buddhists of the cycling community. They’re friendly, laid back, and very concerned with the long-term health of their prized woodland trails.

A good friend just reminded me of how Genevans love to think they’re a cut above the rest, and this anti-mountain biking effort is yet another fine example of this phenomenon. While Ms. Valle and her cohorts certainly have the inalienable right to raise their voices in protest, she came across as one of the more sanctimonious and self serving people I’ve ever met.

In the end, the Fabyan Task Force, and ultimately the County Board, will have to weigh the wishes of thousands of Kane County mountain bikers versus a vast minority of self-righteous homeowners who’d find something wrong with winning the lottery.

The choice is clear: Let the mountain bikers enjoy the venue they’ve already been using for years.

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