Landon Sherman and his dad, Jim, got lost a couple of years ago while mountain biking at Janesville’s Rockport Park.
“We kept going around in circles,” Landon recalls. “It was really confusing.”
Eventually, they found a sign and agreed it would be helpful to have more signs in the 246-acre park, where multiple trails weave, cross and run parallel to each other.
Now 15-year-old Landon is doing something about it.
With the backing of the city and biking and trail groups, he is erecting eight overall maps of the park in various locations and up to 100 signs pointing people in the right direction.
“We need that many because of how often the trails cross,” Landon explained.
He also will put up 12 numbered signs to help emergency medical people find locations in the city’s biggest park. Numbered signs from one to 12 will pinpoint locations.
If someone is lost or hurt, the person can report the number on the nearest sign to let others know where he or she is.
“This is not only for EMTs,” Landon said. “You also can use it if you want to give directions to a friend to meet you on the trail. It will be a lot easier to find people.”
The ninth-grader at Craig High School is an avid mountain biker and a member of the city’s high school mountain-biking team, which uses trails at Rockport Park.
Landon also is a member of Boy Scouts of America Troop 471 and has taken on the ambitious project to earn his Eagle Scout badge.
Ethan Lee, the city’s parks supervisor, said the city endorses the effort because it makes the 12 miles of multiuse trails at Rockport more user friendly.
“The city’s goal is to make the parks as usable by as many people as possible,” he said.
Lee has had reports that the trails are not well marked and users have gotten confused about which loop they are on.
Landon began work on the project in October, when he started reaching out to different groups to inform them of his plan and to seek financial help.
He needs about $4,000 to print maps and for materials to put up the signs. He has raised almost half of it.
Landon’s goal is to finish the project with all signs up by the end of summer.
Among the groups endorsing Landon’s effort are the Janesville Velo Club, the Rock Trail Coalition and the Friends of Rockport Park.
The Velo Club sponsors the youth mountain biking club and supports efforts to get kids into cycling, said Bob Schlegel of the group.
He said Rockport Park is the “only legitimate mountain-biking system in the county.”
“Rockport trails have been built with mountain biking in mind,” he explained.
Mountain-bike or single-track trails are separate from the wider ski trails.
Rich Bostwick of the Friends of Rockport Park said mountain biking is probably the most popular park activity now, especially since the last few ski seasons have been poor.
Velo Club members have been building mountain-biking trails at the park for several years.
Because of the trails, Rockport Park is becoming a regional destination for mountain bikers, Bostwick said.
“The fact that the trails are expanding at a rapid pace means that users new to the park as well as longtime users are going to need to keep up with the newer segments,” Bostwick said. “A well-thought-out signage system is what is needed.”
Ken Pearson is a Velo Club member and mountain-biking coach.
“This is a project we wanted to see done for quite some time,” Pearson said. “When Landon came up with the idea, we thought it was fantastic.”
Anna Marie Lux is a Sunday columnist for The Gazette. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email amarielux@ gazettextra.com.