The Town of Blacksburg opened the Blacksburg Rotary Mountain Biking Skills Park, located off Meadowbrook Road on Brush Mountain at the base of the Jefferson National Forest, Saturday, July 27 at 10 a.m.
Dozens of spectators and mountain bikers gathered around an open shed at the base of the trail, built by the Boy Scouts, to kick off the ribbon-cutting. The event included raffle tickets for bike gear, food and t-shirts for sale.
“These are interesting times right now in Blacksburg, and in the New River Valley,” said Blacksburg Mayor Leslie Hager-Smith during her speech, “and a lot of us are a little bit taken aback at how quickly changes are happening, and some of us are a little overwhelmed by them –– but, I'm looking at what this took ... and this is the very definition of a community park."
In addition, with the help of organizations like the Blacksburg Rotary Club, Friends of the Huckleberry Trail, East Coasters Bike Shop, BikeBarn, promotions in places like Lefty’s, Cabo Fish Taco, the Lyric Theatre and individual donations, the Blacksburg Parks and Recreation Department raised $36,000 to construct the bike park. The rest of the funding came from the Town of Blacksburg, which totaled the funding to about $60,000.
“The Rotary Club stepped up with a $10,000 donation to kick things off,” said Marc Verniel, Blacksburg town manager. “That kicked off a lot of community funding, (which) included over 160 individual donations, and then dozens and dozens and dozens of events and promotions.”
Additionally, Green Valley Builders, a construction company currently building apartments in Blacksburg, donated extra dirt to complete certain park areas.
The park consists of land the town already owned and land they acquired with the help of Friends of the Huckleberry Trail several years ago, from the Gateway Trail to the Pandapas Pond trail. The town created a master plan for where the trail would lay with Alpine Bike Parks.
“I think the coolest thing about it is that it's accessible from town –– people can ride from town and get there –– and it's accessible to all different skill levels,” Verniel said. “We saw little kids as young as 5 years old up there today riding it and older folks riding it as well. So, it's accessible to all different age groups.”
The conception for the mountain bike park began about five years ago with a discussion between Dean Crane, director of Blacksburg Parks and Recreation, and Chris Betz, co-owner of East Coasters Bike Shop, Verniel said. Crane and Betz noticed that mountain bikers could either easily ride on the Huckleberry Trail, which is a flat, asphalt trail, or on the Pandapas Pond trail, which is a tough ride because of the ground and natural hills. The idea was to create a mountain biking trail where people can ride on the terrain between beginner and experienced levels.
“We've got so many riding opportunities in the national forest around here, but the riding around here was pretty hard,” Betz said. “So, what we're seeing is a high price of entry to get into the sport; there's no real place to learn the skills. So that was the thoughts behind it ... to provide a place that would allow (people) to take advantage of all the opportunities.
Additionally, Crane believes this is a park where people can learn safely.
“I hope people use it,” Crane said. “There’s a lot of kids here –– I hope that this becomes their normal playground.”
The Town of Blacksburg already recently purchased 500 more acres by Virginia Outdoors Foundation to expand the park.
As for partnerships with Virginia Tech, Crane suspects that many clubs or organizations may use the trail; however, a university-sponsored partnership hasn’t been discussed.
"Our future hopefully starts this fall as we ... create more trail," Crane said. "In doing that, we raised $1,015 to start that funding already ... Not bad. One day we're doing the ribbon-cutting; yesterday we submitted a grant. Who knows what tomorrow's going to bring."