BERKELEY SPRINGS – A small group of mountain bikers in a chance meeting with the deputy superintendent of Cacapon State Park has led to projects that will never leave the park the same way again, and this weekend marks the opening one of them in a way.
The park will host its first National Interscholastic Cycling Association race and host a ribbon cutting for long overdue trails.
Mark Hoyle, board member of the Cacapon Resort State Park Foundation and mountain bike trails coordinator for the foundation, explained that the whole project started in late 2017, when a group of around 10 to 15 cyclists was getting ready for a ride, a group using the tracks. then in existence from time to time.
“There were maybe eight miles of trails, the old classic CCC trails in the state park, really rocky. Not enough mileage to make it worth riding frequently, ”he said. “The assistant superintendent stopped and said, ‘Hey, I just wanted to let you know that the local high school and foundation are building a cross-country ski trail. We are building this trail on some of the existing trails, and it will be a gravel trail instead of a dirt trail, so it’s not a mountain bike trail. We were immediately disappointed as this was our way of climbing the mountain.
The deputy superintendent understood the group’s disappointment, offering individuals the chance to clear some of the oldest trails on the south side of the park. Using old maps, a few weeks later, a horse trail was located to the top of the mountain, with the riders getting to work cleaning up what is now known as the Giddy-up.
The superintendent then offered the 1,000 acres on this side of the park that were not yet developed, telling cyclists to draw up a trail plan and approve them.
The research began, designs were drawn and a three kilometer course then materialized thanks to the work of volunteers during a few cold days.
The riders were introduced to the State Park Foundation, which allowed them to apply for grants through the nonprofit connection and work on expanding and improving mountain bike trails throughout the park. Hoyle said the foundation welcomed runners with open arms.
Around the same time, Hoyle’s youngest son began to take an interest in mountain biking, claiming he would ride more if the trails weren’t so rocky.
As fate would have it, Teresa Collins was looking to involve more young people in mountain biking locally at the same time, wishing to create a NICA organization for local middle and high school cyclists.
“It’s like the two ideas are merging,” Hoyle said.
The couple mapped out what they thought was a beginner’s trail that eventually came to life, and state officials from NICA came to test the trail.
“We scared them to death, because they were driving on the trails. “These are not beginner trails. It’s terrifying for kids, ”Hoyle said with a laugh.
State officials provided examples of beginner trails and fundraising has begun. Grants started coming in, both locally and from the state, and the money piled up – or so the volunteers thought.
“When we had around $ 15,000 we thought we were rolling in the dough and were going to be able to build a good trail,” Hoyle said. “We started asking for quotes, and quotes started coming in between $ 50,000 and $ 60,000.”
With only three certified trail builders in the state, Hoyle and the volunteers found Zach Adams, along with Canaan Valley’s Appalachian Dirt, a builder who has proven to be a saving grace.
Adams explained that the trail was so expensive because of the rock and water, but he told the Cacapon group he would build a one-mile loop for the $ 15,000 that was raised, a trail that could be added later to create the necessary 2.2. thousand NICA courses.
More and more grants started to come in, with the Morgan County Commission providing support, as well as locals who worked to donate their own money, all helping to build sections of the trail.
“In the end, we ended up with a full track,” Hoyle said.
Those involved raised over $ 50,000 to create Rock & Roll, with Adams’ generosity playing a big part for the trail which would typically cost around $ 90,000.
The momentum continued and the local group received the Trail Accelerator Grant from the International Mountain Bike Association, one of the most prestigious and hard-to-win in the country. After accumulating the corresponding $ 10,000, the group obtained a comprehensive trail plan that designed 35 miles of new trails on 1,000 acres on the south side.
More and more money was raised, including winning RTP grants from the Federal Highways Department for $ 150,000 in 2019 and 2020, helping to create a difficult rocky trail that sank into Rock & Roll, a trail for teach cyclists to tackle rocky trails. The $ 300,000 will be used to build a one-of-a-kind iconic trail in the park previously, which runs from the top of the mountain to the picnic area near the bottom in 2022, with construction scheduled to begin in March.
Hoyle thanked the county commission for its support, adding that it was contributing about half of the matching money for the $ 300,000 grant because the commissioners understand the amount of touring biking brings.
From a very successful enduro race in May at the NICA this weekend, the tracks drew hundreds of riders to Cacapon, so much so that an economic impact study on tourism by Doug Arbogast highlighted evidence of the amount of business that has been brought to the area. .
“It was pretty mind-blowing, there was some really good data,” Hoyle said.
He added that with 200 runners registered for this weekend, accommodation in the region is almost full. Hoyle pointed out that Cacapon offers a unique location to create the perfect mountain biking area with its proximity to major cities like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington, DC and Baltimore, as well as the ability to do so much more, like use the lake, go to the spa or enjoy Berkeley Springs.
“He has so much for everyone,” Hoyle said. “That’s really the whole point – to make it a destination.”
This weekend will be a busy one for riders in Cacapon, with a GRIT event for girls on Saturday, as well as a coaches race and pre-ride training. The inauguration ceremony will take place on Saturday from 12:45 p.m. to 1:00 p.m., and the race will start at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday.
“Promise it will be a really fun weekend for everyone,” Hoyle said.