Mountain Flyer Number 18

Page 18

l l e w o D c M


A Haven for Mountain Bikers

by Justin Schmid FORT MCDOWELL, Ariz.—With all the breaking bumps, berms, cacti and rocks in front of me, I really wasn’t looking for a desert tortoise. But there it was, inches from the trail—a living, moving creature disguised as a small boulder. I blew past it before realizing I’d just had my first encounter with a wild desert tortoise. That’s the McDowell Mountain Regional Park experience distilled: thrilling mountain biking with a hefty scoop of stunning mountain scenery and desert wildlife. For nearly 15 years, McDowell Mountain Regional Park on the outskirts of Phoenix has been proving what’s possible when government officials and mountain bikers collaborate rather than collide. Even with all that the park offers mountain bikers, it’s not a finished product. Volunteers and park officials continue to collaborate to build trails beyond the park’s extensive crosscountry trails, starting with a new pump track that opened in late August. The future promises a flow trail, a skills area, possibly even some dirt jumping. “It could set the standard for a lot of other parks,” says Stan Klonowski, trail advocacy chair for the Mountain Bike Association of Arizona (MBAA). The park, managed by Maricopa County, is 21,000 acres of decomposed granite garnished with saguaro and jumping cacti. It’s not only a haven for mountain bikers but for javelina, coyote and rattlesnake. Two varied, expansive sets of singletrack networks are the main forage for mountain bikers. The park’s heftiest slice of multi-use trail is the Pemberton Trail, a smooth, fast-rolling, 15.3-mile mountain bike autobahn. The park uses it for organized night rides during the blazing hot summer months in the desert. In addition to improved trail signs and permanent restrooms, park managers added connecting trails to bring the total mileage to 50. The Pemberton is the choice for the annual Dawn to Dusk bike race, equestrian events and ultrarunning races. A few miles to the east, the Competitive Track is the legacy of the Cactus Cup’s final years in Arizona. Specialized funded the trail’s construction in 1998. It’s nearly 15 miles of winding, rolling, rocky, washboarded mayhem and hosts MBAA championship races, the 24 Hours of Fury and, this year, an inaugural women’sonly bike race. Klonowski is revved about the can-do spirit that forged the latest addition to the park, the pump track. Advocates hustled to nearly eliminate out-of-pocket costs for the county. Fill dirt came from donations and other county projects. Park staff identified a


Photos Christopher Cowen

corner of the Competitive Track parking lot where a pump track would have no impact on the park’s fragile plant or animal life. MBAA contributed $500 for irrigation. “We finally found some place that we can build something legitimate,” says Alan Shelton, a longtime trail volunteer who organizes the track-building sessions. “And helping build it gives us a voice in it.” That’s been possible at McDowell Mountain Regional Park, Shelton says, because of its supervisor, Rand Hubbell. Hubbell has been the go-to person for event organizers— and also for user groups. During his seven-year tenure as park supervisor, Hubbell says mountain bikers have been a positive force, bringing in revenue and volunteer help for the park. Hubbell admits that he’s been skeptical of some ideas— especially the summer night rides. Users lobbied for it before the staff gave its blessing. Now, it’s one of Hubbell’s points of pride. Up to 140 riders show up for the night rides. Since county officials like to tackle projects one at a time, Hubbell wants to finish the pump track before looking too far ahead. But he already has an idea: a flow trail parallel to a stretch of the Pemberton Trail. He calls it a “bobsled run” for bikes that will allow riders to cruise nearly two miles through the park using only momentum. That project is still 18 months or more in the future. The park staff will perform a battery of studies to fit the new trail into the master plan, evaluating potential impacts on flora, fauna and cultural resources. Hubbell is also mulling a dirt-jumping area. Klonowski would like to see a jumping park, somewhere riders can get big air. Shelton is interested in a skills area that would feature teetertotters and skinny trails. Whatever the future at McDowell Mountain Regional Park, mountain bikers will have an advocate in Hubbell. “All this creates more work for him,” Shelton says. “But he likes fun ideas. He’s open. He really wants to turn this into a premiere mountain bike destination.”

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.