WARREN - Stephen Zerefos is incredibly enthusiastic about exercise and outdoor living, especially kayaking and mountain biking.
Most of all he loves sharing his knowledge with others and getting them involved in the sports.
"I grew up hiking and backpacking," Zerefos said. "My wife and I backpacked throughout most of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia."
His outdoor obsession today is focused on riding mountain bike trails and helping to build new ones. Which is part of the reason why Barb Rosenblum, Michelle Gall and Carol Williams nominated him to be a Community Star.
Now in its 12th year, the Community Star program celebrates the volunteers who have had a significant influence on Trumbull County. It is sponsored by the Tribune Chronicle and Trumbull 100.
An architect, Zerefos, 50, came to the attention of the Howland Health and Wellness Committee when the group decided it wanted to build a mountain bike trail behind Candlelight Apartments off North Road S.E.
Rust Belt Revival Trail Coalition, International Mountain Bike Association, and Howland Health and Wellness Committee
Zerefos plotted out the trail using his bicycle, GPS and mapping equipment.
Williams, a member of the Howland Health and Wellness Committee, said Zerefos' vision has guided the committee in creating the North Road Nature Preserve Howland Trail.
"What started off as a dream now consists of two trails totaling over two miles," she said.
"During the past two years on every Saturday, Steve could be found working on the trail," Williams continued. "Steve first, by himself, blazed the initial trail with just a Bowie knife, then would GPS it."
Zerefos, who only has been mountain biking for five years, learned how to create mountain bike trails while working with the Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association.
"You don't just clear a path," Zerefos said. "You want to build one that is self-sustaining. You don't want to have to come back and clear it year after year."
The Howland project began in 2010 as a 1.3-mile trail. A second phase is branching farther north toward Mosquito Creek. A third phase is expected to be built in 2014.
Working with the Howland Health and Wellness Committee, Zerefos has recruited many volunteers. Together, they have cleared bushels of brush, including a wide variety of ivy, dead logs and dying trees, and moved tons of gravel, rocks and even boulders onto the property.
"We had adult volunteers, both Girl and Boy Scout troops, and others come out to do some work," he said. "Building a mountain bike trail is not rocket science. It is hard, physical work. People have to be dedicated."
"I started building trails and volunteering because I felt a need to give back," Zerefos said. "Besides, I don't think of what I am doing as work. It is getting me outdoors. It is keeping me fit."
Volunteering also is his way of living what he believes.
"People are always talking about smaller government, well, if we have one then there will be a lot less services," he explained. "If we want things like this built, we have to do some of the work ourselves."
Rosenblum described Zerefos spending countless hours planning, building and organizing the trail off Candlelight Drive.
"He has worked tirelessly with other organizations to help with the trail building and promote the project throughout Trumbull County," she said.
Gall recounted how Zerefos created detailed maps for waterways and bike trails which have been made accessible to the public at no cost. He also created a map for Niles' portion of the Western Reserve Greenway.
"He has created a proposal for a new trail system at Lake Milton State Park, which was approved in December," Gall said.
Zerefos also helped form the Rust Belt Revival Trail Coalition, consisting of a group of cyclists looking to expand bicycling in Trumbull, Mahoning, and Columbiana counties. The group is a part of the International Mountain Bike Association.
Eric Davidson, a co-founder of the coalition, met Zerefos while working on a trail at Beaver Creek in 2012..
"We came up with the idea of starting a club while working on these trails," he said. "It officially began in September. We now have 35 members."
The club promotes physical fitness and an active lifestyles. It is for both new and experienced cyclists for group rides at local trails and at special events.
"We want to increase the number of bike riders, educate younger riders and provide information and guidance,'' Zerefos said.