Kentucky native turns love of biking into career making paths for others
CINCINNATI (WXIX) - An outdoor enthusiast has made her passion a career as she continues her journey to build more trails across the Tri-State.
Olivia Birkenhauer lives for adventure, trekking through the trails in Kentucky and Cincinnati, including the Josh Brenneman Memorial Trail at Devou Park in Covington.
The president of the Cincinnati Off-Road Alliance (CORA) says it’s magic every time her foot hits the pedal.
“Ohh my gosh, it is I’m a kid again,” says Birkenhauer. “But it’s also the exhilaration of being out in nature, and there’s a little bit of a rush for me when I’m going fast.”
An excitement that she works to maintain for others as well with her position at CORA.
The organization currently preserves 100 miles of multi-use trails: keeping the paths clear and safe for bikers, hikers and runners.
Their effort has continued for the past 25 years.
“In the last couple of years, especially the last two to three years, we’ve become more of an advocating arm,” explains Birkenhauer. “Reaching out meeting with our community leaders, our stakeholders, our members to really look at how can we build more trails for everyone.”
Birkenhauer has helped lead the way with CORA’s efforts, including recently adding 4.5 miles of trails to Mt. Airy.
Also adding safe paths in Tower Park and Lebanon.
A mission that she says not only improves lives through fitness but mental health as well.
“We saw with COVID how important it was for people to get outside,” says Birkenhauer. “To get those kids out here versus being on their electronics is a world of difference in their mental health and well-being. And the families that I run into on the weekends, It has meant the world to them to have these types of things.”
Birkenhauer has always lived an active lifestyle.
She played on Northern Kentucky University’s basketball team during her college years and then began coaching basketball, which later turned into a love of mountain biking.
So much so, she currently coaches co-ed school cycling leagues at middle schools and high schools across the state.
“I do a lot with time trials and I follow the kids around in the woods,” says Birkenhauer. “We want to get more women. We want to get more kids on bikes too.”
She even started her own company, GOT DIRT, where she teaches others the skills of maneuvering across the trails in a safe way.
While she’s taken on several different roles, her commitment to making the Tri-state more accessible and encouraging others to step outside and enjoy nature remains the same.
“The biggest reason I wanted to get involved is I really wanted to advocate and work with our municipalities and our stakeholders to build more trails out in more communities so that it is closer to home and neighborhoods connecting more neighborhoods,” says Birkenhauer. “Especially, in the urban areas where sometimes you have to drive out to a state park or whatever. I want to. We really at CORA want to move that barrier.”
Birkenhauer says she’s proud of the progress they have already made.
Currently, CORA has trail expansion projects underway at East Fork, Devou, Hueston Woods, Caesar’s Creek, and Mount Airy Forest.
This story is part of a weekly segment called Breaking Through.
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