Longtime Milford resident, builder and local volunteer Bill Hermann has been instrumental in helping the Huron Valley community develop a network of mountain biking trails that span 100 miles in and around Milford. In 2019, he was recognized by the Michigan Trails & Greenway Alliance as a Volunteer of the Year. A member of the Motor City Mountain Biking Association, Hermann has been an avid cyclist since the late 1980s. He founded the Milford Bike Fest and Trail Challenge 14 years ago and enjoys seeing local youth develop a passion for the sport.
How long have you been mountain biking and what do you enjoy about it?
Oh, I don’t know, all my life. On and off there for a while, and I probably got back into it for real in the late 80s/early 90s, when mountain biking first came out. I enjoy that it gets you out into nature. It gets you feeling better. You get to see a lot of areas, compared to when you walk a trail – you walk for two, three or four miles and that takes a long time. On a bike, you can go that distance so much quicker. I enjoy the scenery around you and the health benefits.
How did you get involved with the Motor City Biking Association and what is your role in that organization?
The Motor City Biking Association was originally the MMBA (Michigan Mountain Biking Association) and I got involved because I was helping do some maintenance on the trails with some people. I looked at Hubbell Pond Park and thought – this would be a great place for a mountain biking trail. This was before the paved bike path went in. I put the mountain bike trail in in 2006 when the Village [of Milford] gave permission.
I’m a [MCMBA] board member now. When I was building the trail, I wasn’t on the board, I was a material coordinator, basically walking the trails to help build them and talking to the city or the Village or the DNR, whoever we needed to talk to.
It was more to get local kids to mountain bike. I built it to get kids off cell phones and computers and get them outside and start mountain biking.
The trail seems to have done well in that regard; do a lot of kids use it?
Yes, and a lot of that is due to the Kowalskis – Emily and Darin. They started the Huron Valley Mountain Bike Club through Huron Valley Schools. They’re the ones who brought the kids in, starting a team with the schools and they did a hell of a job with that. There’s 150 kids that ride on Thursday nights out there. It’s pretty cool – all the way from elementary, five- and six-year-olds on up. They’ve done a great job with taking it one step further.
Do you have a favorite trail locally? Or a favorite season to mountain bike?
Favorite trail is probably Highland [Recreation Area]. And the Milford Trail we built. And Proud Lake’s fun too. Favorite season – we go year-round.
What do you need to know about mountain biking in the winter?
You have to have a fat bike, pretty much. And follow the rules and be considerate. If the trails are soft, don’t go on them because they just become trenches and it’s not worth riding. We have a groomer than maintains a couple of the trails.
The Milford Bike Fest & Trail Challenge is held every year, the first Saturday in June. When did that get started?
This is the 14th year. It’s growing every year. Milford – we’re the mecca for bike trails in Southeast Michigan. We’re all interconnected. You can ride 100 miles of trails from the Village of Milford. That’s including the paved bike path to the different trail heads – Island Lake, there’s 14 miles of trails there; Milford’s almost seven miles; Highland is 17; Hickory Glen is another 10 miles; Proud Lake is another 12 miles. Those are all part of our Milford Bike Festival.
Milford Village Council recently discussed your request on behalf of the MCMBA to use a baseball field at Janowski Park to create a youth training area for mountain biking, close to the trailhead. Where does the proposal stand?
We asked to use the field as a training area and the Village seemed responsive about it. We wanted it up by the front [near the trailhead and changing station] because it would be easy and simple and everybody could use it, but they’re giving us the backfield if we want it. I have to present it to Parks & Rec, probably in a month.
What else should people know about the MCMBA?
A lot of people don’t realize that all those trails around here, all the dirt trails you see – they’re maintained by the Motor City Mountain Bike Association. They’re all volunteers. No one gets paid. Everyone gets out there and clears trails when the trees are down, and we maintain them. Becoming a member of the Motor City Mountain Bike Association helps pay for that on our local trails around Milford.
People don’t realize how much mountain biking has exploded. It’s so cool watching kids out there. I’m jealous of not being a kid again because people didn’t bike this like back then. Now these kids are all together and they come across the finish line and everybody is giving hugs. It doesn’t matter if it’s a high school kid or a six-year-old. That’s what you want. The kids are our future, and as mountain bikers, we need these kids to be able to take over and take care of these trails for us old geezers.