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Sandhill Fields bans cyclists 'due to safety concerns'

Bicycling has been deemed "against the rules" at Sandhill Fields in Georgetown.

Sandhill Fields leadership announced the change quietly via a Facebook post, nestled among some photos, but cyclists took notice.

Mary Deeter, 64, lives in downtown Georgetown and is a self-proclaimed biking advocate. She does not ride on public roads due to safety concerns and is unhappy about the new rule at Sandhill Fields.

"I was very excited to see this new facility open in my hometown, but am distressed at the ruling of 'no bikes,'" Deeter said. "Bikes are ... very good for people who need an adaptive mobility activity. Kids on bikes are almost unseen in Georgetown because there are very few developments that are safe to ride in."

A cyclist on the trail at Sandhill Fields in September.

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Sussex Sports Center Foundation is Sandhill Fields' governing body. President Joseph Schell, who donated the land for the complex, said the decision was made at the last board meeting after reviewing safety factors. 

"After lots of opinions (were) expressed, pro and con, it was decided that the risks to bikers and walkers were too great to allow bikes on the loose stone surface and particularly on the boardwalk," Schell said. 

"The boardwalk is elevated with barriers on both sides. If two or three children decided to race on the boardwalk portion of the trail, that would be dangerous to them and also to any walkers coming from the opposite direction."

Georgetown Mayor Bill West is also a board member and voted against the ban on bikes. 

"I pushed and pushed and pushed but they wouldn't agree," he said.

Sandhill Fields is located on Sand Hill Road in Georgetown.

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Lifecycle of Milford owners Jenn Rowan and Ben Jones posted a video lauding the trail as a cycling destination Sept. 28. In a statement, they said they're disappointed with the decision.

"Sussex County taxpayer funding assisted in the creation of the Sandhill Fields complex and we feel permitting only foot traffic on the trail does not respect the financial contribution of the people," they said. 

"We hope that Sandhill Fields board opens their trail to receive the economic wellbeing and community connection multimodal trails provide."

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Sandhill Fields received a $1.5 million startup loan from the Sussex County Council.

Other activities prohibited by the Sandhill Fields rules announced Oct. 21 include skateboarding, rollerblading, roller-skating, scootering and golf.

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