Soon, local mountain bikers will have a new place to introduce the sport to young riders.
Coleman Lovelace and Ethan Trusty presented the Greater Jasper Consolidated School Corporation board with a plan to build a beginner-level mountain bike trail in a wooded area southeast of the high school softball field. The board agreed to the project and gave the group the go-ahead to begin construction.
Lovelace and Trusty are the coaches of a new group, Trail Heads — Southern Indiana, dedicated to increasing participation in the sport while teaching the fundamentals to ensure new riders can do so safely.
Lovelace, who operates Lovelace Family Insurance on the Square in Jasper, is a longtime mountain biker. He approached Trusty, the owner of REM Bicycle and Fitness, about the potential for creating a group to introduce kids to mountain biking and help them build fundamental skills. Trusty thought it was a good idea so, in March, Lovelace put out a post on Facebook to gauge the interest.
“We were expecting three or four kids to show up, and we ended up with a dozen kids and their parents,” Trusty explained.
While the pair had felt they could use the meeting to determine interest and then plan for a 2020 launch, the parents at the meeting urged them to start immediately. The next week the group met and began teaching mountain bike riding skills to the new riders.
“We want to concentrate on the fundamentals to make these kids better riders which in turn will blossom into state championships,” Lovelace said. “We have a couple of kids in our group now that are state champions without any training.”
Having the skills to handle crashes and falls are essential, but there aren’t a lot of forgiving trail riding options locally. With mainly concrete areas to practice on, the pair were running into the hard reality that one fall could stop a person’s continued enthusiasm for the sport.
“One member fell on the concrete, and she hasn’t been back on the bike since,” Coleman said.
He needed a dirt trail. But most trails in Indiana are built for more experienced riders, and those that are more accessible to new riders are at least an hour away.
Fortunately, Lovelace has been involved in racing at Scales Lake in Boonville; a trail system that includes portions for all ages and experience levels. There is an annual race held there for racers as young as 4-years-old. The program is being built on these young riders’ enthusiasm, and with several years of growth, middle school students are now seen riding their bikes to Scales Lake after school for practice.
He felt like something similar in Jasper would be attractive, help build a mountain biking program, and add to the amenities the city offers. He reached out to the city with his thoughts.
“The next thing I know, I’m in a meeting with the mayor, parks director and city attorney,” Lovelace said.
They were interested in the project but saw there could be a connection on some school property located between The Parklands and the Jasper High School.
Mayor Dean Vonderheide mentioned the idea to Superintendent Dr. Tracy Lorey. The school corporation left the woods on the southeast corner of the property in place as a buffer to the adjacent neighborhood. However, a trail through these woods is a low impact way to use the property for the benefit of the community that wouldn’t impact that buffer, according to Dr. Lorey.
“We like for our kids to have a lot of opportunities in our community, and the more opportunities that provide them outdoor activities, the more fruitful they will become,” Dr. Lorey said.
The project is also a low-cost way to add value and another outdoor activity to the city.
“By utilizing existing properties within the city, they minimize the financial investment in the trails by leveraging their own sweat equity as well as that of volunteers from regional bike clubs,” Mayor Vonderheide said. “If, for some unforeseen reason the interest dies out, the trails can be returned to nature.”
Lovelace and Trusty presented a multi-phase project that starts with a three-quarter-mile track winding through the seven acres of woodland. It will feature fun sets of small hills — also known as pump track — as well as some short uphills and long, smooth downhills leading to a fun ending so bikers will be enthusiastic about repeating the loop.
The following phases of the project could extend the trail system into the 10-acres the school corporation owns adjacent to The Parklands but for now, Lovelace and Trusty are just seeking volunteers to help build this first section.
“We are just getting started here,” said Lovelace. “I can’t wait until a year from now. Maybe we see a hundred kids riding bicycles and grandparents and parents riding beside them. This could completely change things.”
If you want to help, contact Lovelace at 812-482-5533 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.