Ahh, Clear Creek. It’s the creek we all know and love that flows right through the middle of town and is a constant source of picturesque scenery, and also ducks. Though there are many spots to sit and stare that would totally satisfy one’s appetite for natural beauty, about thirty years ago some folks around JOCO realized that the river didn’t provide much opportunity for walking or mountain biking. You may find yourself wondering: “What? No one was biking in the river?” We know. Ridiculous, right? But it’s true.
In 2008, the Buffalo Trails Board put together the master plan for the Clear Creek Trail System. Nine years ago when this plan was made, the trails had already been functional. Not all of the trail had been built yet, but the ones that were being used had been estimated to get 400-500 people per day walking, running, and pedaling on the single track and paved trails.
The City did not initially have the land necessary to put together a continuous, public-accessible trail, so the city negotiated with BLM to procure the land necessary to begin construction. The territory that now houses the trail from Klondike Drive up to the Veterans’ Home was traded for three 40 acre parcels which went to the BLM.
Mayor Emil Hecht suffered a heart attack following the completion of the land trade with BLM in 1983. For this, he was prescribed exercise, and so he did just that. Mayor Hecht and Emerson Scott of Buffalo built the entire first leg of the Clear Creek Trail themselves when no one answered a newspaper ad to volunteer their time to help with the path. The Greenbelt Trail from Klondike Drive near the park to the Vets’ Home was staked and bladed using city equipment in 96 hours by the two men alone.
Fast forward thirty four-ish years, and we see that the beautiful Clear Creek Trail System calls Johnson County home. Cyclists and walking enthusiasts alike flock to JOCO and the Clear Creek trails because of their accommodation for a broad range of skill levels. Of course, none of that would exist at all without the countless years of sweat equity and community oriented folks like Bill Mentock.
Bill was first encouraged to get involved with the new Trail project in 1984 through his work with the BLM. The Greenbelt Trail was just a year old when Bill started laying the section now known as the Mentock Trail. In 1990, Mentock was appointed to the Clear Creek Development Commission and he received a national recognition, The Take Pride in America National Award, in 1992 for his dedication to the community.
So, get out there, Johnson County, and pedal or run ‘til you drop! Get in a workout alongside your favorite creek and continue to put the trails to good use!