September 04, 2012 | 06:16 PMGENOA CITY — Chuck DeVito, of Elkhorn, said he must have driven past the Dr. Miller Cliffs millions of times this year.
He said he can see it from Highway 12, especially during the winter, when the leaves are gone from the trees in Genoa City Memorial Park, that 25 acres between Brookwood Middle School and the business park on Elizabeth Lane.
But on Sunday, he took his boys, CJ and Joey, their bikes and his remote-controlled car to The Cliffs. He confessed he didn't know what the place was called, nor was he even sure it was public land.
The boys, novice BMXers, took to the trails, which are worn paths among a series of dirt mounds that wind around trees and rocks.
CJ, the oldest of the two, managed to peddle his way up the steepest hills and pulled some jumps. Joey had to walk his bike up one of the hills then eyed a jump nervously. He made the jump but almost lost his balance once he landed.
When CJ heard that someone was going to be making BMX trails for novice and intermediate skill levels as early as next week, he said to his dad, "We missed it."
On the phone Monday, Genoa City resident Mark Hildebrand said he hopes to begin work on the new trails next weekend.
Hildebrand, 32, is not only a local celebrity, but he appears to be the right person for the job.
A former pro BMX racer who started out when he was 5, Hildebrand has traveled the world, won world cups and designed tracks for the X-Games and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Now, with help from his wife, Nicki, and Village Park Commissioner Cheri Borowiec, he has the chance to build something in his own community.
"What got me really interested in this was, for one, I knew I could do it, but two, I wish I could have had a place like this to ride when I was a kid," Mark said.
A place, he said, which can be used by his daughter, 8-year-old novice BMXer Jadyn, or his uncle's pro BMX team.
"What's really neat about Mark is he draws perfect pictures in his head," Nicki said on the phone Friday. "He's got a vision."
She also said, "We're very much a BMX family."
Originally from Spring Grove, Ill., Mark said his uncle, Jim Duchanan, was in BMX when it began. Duchanan would become an important figure in Mark's days as a pro BMXer, and he still owns a team. But encouragement from Duchanan aside, Mark said he loved riding his bike, and he's good at it.
"That feeling of ridiang and jumping — you're nervous about jumping, but once you do, that feeling is amazing," Mark said about why he loves BMX racing. "That and winning, of course."
He went pro at the age of 18, then stopped at 24. But being a rider lent itself well to the area of designing and building BMX tracks.
"As a rider, you know what people want on the track," Mark said. "But to build it with a machine is another story."
Fortunately, Mark knows how to run those machines. He said several years ago, he and Duchanan built a track at Wilmot Mountain. Then, Vans' Triple Crown event came to Wilmot.
"They were going to ski resorts and they would build these huge downhill tracks," Mark said. "It was just for pros only."
He said he was at Wilmot when Vans had a loader dropped off. Mark admitted he did something he knew was wrong.
"I used it," he said. "It was just one of those things. I knew I shouldn't be doing it."
So he built a track. Initially, the people from Vans weren't happy with him. However, an X-Games athlete Mark knew, Brian Foster, talked to them. According to Mark, Foster was one of a group of people designing the tracks for the Triple Crown.
Although the event was cancelled at Wilmot, Vans contacted Mark to build a Triple Crown track in California.
Since then, Mark has designed between 20 and 30 tracks, including the 1,200-foot-long Waukegan BMX Track and rebuilt several others.
On the phone Aug. 29, Borowiec said the village park commission approved Mark's designs for the Dr. Miller Cliffs trails in July.
But the project is not a track. Mark and Nicki said there will be no high jumps along the trails.
"It's not being built to have competitors on or to do anything public. It's being built to do what kids have been doing up there for 50 years," Borowiec said over the phone Aug. 29.
She said there will be rules to follow, likely similar to those at the skate park in Veterans Park.
Borowiec and Nicki collaborated after Nicki said she read a friend's post on Facebook about the trails. Nicki said she thought it would be a chance for her family to give back to the community.
But she said before Mark could rebuild the trails, she collected signatures in November 2011.
"To let the village know there was public want, per se, I printed out (petitions) and had people sign them," she said.
Nicki said she collected about 200 signatures and, last spring, presented them to Borowiec and Todd Schiller, director of the village's public works department.
Some donations helped the project progress to its current stage. Borowiec said Scott Dixon, of Scott Dixon Companies, donated about 400 square yards of dirt.
Nicki said Creative Edge Landscapes, Twin Lakes, is providing Mark with the Bobcat he needs to create the trails.
She said the trails will benefit the community.
"It definitely gives the kids something to do," Nicki said.
Then she spoke not only of the trails but the sport as a whole.
"There is so much you can do with BMX.," Nicki said. "Without (the trails), it could be a hidden talent with your child and you'd never know."