Kevin Riordan: He blazed his own trail for mountain bikes

John Tannock
John Tannock
Posted: August 26, 2012

A herd of deer and a hound named Smoke showed John Tannock the way.

The Cherry Hill photographer was walking his dog in 2008 when he realized the township-owned woodlands across from his Kresson Road home could be great for mountain biking.

So Tannock started to cut brush and rake soil to create trails through the 50-acre site, basically following the "little deer highways."

"Deer are pretty smart about the best way to go," notes Tannock, whose one-man project has long since been embraced by others, including the township.

"We are tremendously grateful to the community members who laid the foundation" for the township's emerging system of trails, Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Cahn says in a statement.

Though appreciative of Tannock's effort, officials emphasize that they don't want to encourage people to create their own trails on public land.

Says Tannock, 65: "I used to have to drive an hour when I wanted to ride. Now I can take my bike out of the garage and go across the street."

Though in suburbia, Kresson Trail winds for three looping, leafy miles through surprisingly rugged terrain.

A branch of the Cooper River carves a deep incline along the north side, and lush foliage softens the sound of traffic.

"It's beautiful!" I exclaim for the first of several times as Tannock gives me a tour of what he calls "a little paradise."

He's riding a nifty Gary Fisher bike, but I'm on foot. No need to risk catastrophe.

"There was a lot of junk in here, and it was overgrown with weeds," Tannock continues. "It took hundreds of hours of work."

Maintenance now is handled by volunteers from the environmental board. Eric Iacono, of Cherry Hill, built the information kiosk as his Eagle Scout project.

Kresson is on the radar of the region's mountain-biking organizations, enthusiasts, and equipment retailers.

"It's huge for . . . the mountain-biking and trail-running community," Brian Hackford, owner of Keswick Cycle, in Glenside, Montgomery County, says in an e-mail.

Locals can "hit some fun trails and ride home," he adds. "This is awesome."

Jay Jones, a mountain-biking advocate and environmental board member, says that Kresson "expands the opportunity for people to get together for a great activity that can also be a family-oriented activity." And it's free.

Tannock got his first mountain bike ("they're basically dirt bikes without motors," he explains) for his 40th birthday.

Back then the Wissahickon trail, in Philly, was the destination for mountain bikers. Wharton State Forest in Burlington County, and a Mantua, Gloucester County, trail also have become popular.

"I ride for fun," Tannock says. "I like cross-country riding. I like swoopy and twisty, turny trails. That kind of stuff."

The Audubon native lives with Patricia, his wife of 42 years. She teaches fifth grade at Our Lady of Hope Regional School, in Blackwood, and she likes mountain bikes, too. She calls Kresson Trail "a great community-builder."

In creating it, John Tannock says he tried to honor the landscape, as the Jersey Off Road Bicycle Association and similar organizations suggest.

"You want it to be sustainable," he says. "You want to get about two inches down to the base soil, to the good soil. You want to make sure water will run off.

"You want to keep it natural, very natural, and use the . . . features of the terrain. It's important to work with what's already there, not changing it any more than you absolutely have to."

Tannock says he's not territorial about what, in his words, "I conceived, designed, and built. . . . I feel connected to it, and I definitely have an interest in what happens back there, and how it's kept.

"But what thrills me is the variety of people using it. I love it. Whenever I go back there, I see them, and they're all smiling."

Contact Kevin Riordan

at 856-779-3845 or, or follow on Twitter @inqkriordan. Read the metro columnists'

blog, "Blinq," at

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