MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — Mountain bike trails in Halpatiokee Park in Martin County have now been closed for more than a month since a biker fell onto an alligator and was badly bitten and hospitalized.
However, the trails could open soon and see some improvements.
Since the alligator bite happened, county officials have been reviewing and inspecting all of its trails across the county.
Now, the 7.5 miles of mountain bike trails at the park stand to get some improvements with input from a national design team.
It's been more than a month since the trails have been lined with bikers as county crews work to make sure they are safe.
"It’s Halpatiokee … [which] actually means alligator. We want the alligators and the wildlife to continue to be a part of the experience here," said Martin County's ecosystem manager John Maehl.
The county closing the mountain biking trails after 74-year-old Robert Bassett rode his bike off a wooden portion of the trail, falling into the water and on top of an alligator. He's still recovering from the bite.
"Really at the end of the day, this is an unfortunate wildlife encounter. [There] happened to be an alligator right there where he landed. If he landed anywhere else, it probably wouldn’t have been that big of a deal," Maehl said.
But there is some good is coming out of the trail review.
Maehl said they are now learning just how valuable the bike trails are to the community.
"[We realized] just how important this feature is to the public," Maehl said.
Now, they are planning to invest a little more into them.
"It's just a great opportunity to look holistically at the whole trail system and see where there's opportunities to improve the recreation opportunity," Maehl said.
Maehl said the county this fall will bring in national mountain bike trail design teams to maximize the potential for the trails.
They will also be making them safer, like removing the wooden additions, which is a fire risk during prescribed burns. They will also add more signs to help bikers know if the trail meets their skill level.
The mountain bike trails could reopen within the next two weeks.
The hiking trails remain open throughout the park.