When: Saturday, April 27, 2013 from 3:30pm to 5:30pm
Where: Kentucky Artisan Center Conference Room, 200 Artisan Way, Berea, KY
Who: Any current or potential member of KyMBA that is interested in regionally specific advocacy and energy.
Why: To maintain and improve existing mountain biking opportunities and to expand and create new mountain biking opportunities in Eastern Kentucky.
Let me explain why this meeting is important to me. In the mid-90s I bought a Cannondale M300 mountain bike from a friend to serve as urban transportation while I was away at college. It continued to be my primary mode of transportation when I returned to live in Slade, Kentucky in my native Powell County. Over time I began using the bike to explore for new rocks to climb and trails to hike, but somewhere along the way I found I enjoyed just riding the bike.
That somewhere was a short steep descent from the Sheltowee Trace at the southernmost boundary of Natural Bridge into Pot Hollow. At the time it was a dirt road with big ole rocks travelled frequently by OHVs but rarely by mountain bike. I rode it as often as I could, and I began looking for similar places to ride in the area. I saw glorious untapped potential.
Time passes, and life goes on. I eventually had a family and my foot on a career stepping stone…in Colorado. We lived in the West for five years, and in that time I became a die-hard mountain biker, riding wonderfully built singletrack in public city and county parks and National Forests, and eventually participating in my first Leadville MTB Trail 100, a 100 mile mountain bike race in the mountains of Colorado.
I couldn’t help but daydream about returning to my old haunts and riding places like Whites Branch, Sand Lick, Spaas Creek, and Big Sinking with a better bike and more skill. I knew long ago that the Cumberland Plateau is an outdoor recreationalist’s paradise.
Upon returning to my hometown I ventured out to some of those old places with the ringing in my ears of rumors that certain places had been “destroyed.” I was also hearing about contention in Morehead of the trail use at Cave Run.
Spaas Creek, which had once been well managed by the USFS, turned out to be destroyed by OHVs. Powder Mill Branch Trail, the only official mountain bike trail in the Red River Gorge, was in such disrepair and disuse as to be mostly unrideable. I haven’t been back down into the Big Sinking area yet. It was my favorite area, and I am afraid it will be heartbreaking to see the changes that man and nature have made over time. But so far the most enraging experience has been my most recent ride along the Whites Branch section of the Sheltowee Trace and descent into Sand Lick where the USFS has absolutely destroyed the roads to prevent OHV use (officially to “protect wildlife”) to such an extent as to make the trail and road almost impassable for all but the most determined users.
In the short time I was out of state the conditions have degraded on those roads and trails I used to enjoy riding. And because there are few designated mountain bike trails in the region the ambivalence toward these backwoods places is even more disheartening. The great potential I once saw has been overgrown by neglect. My knee-jerk response was that the window of opportunity on many of the potential mountain biking areas in Eastern Kentucky is closing. I shouldn’t be so fatalistic.
It’s time to wade in with the bow saws and loppers to clear a path back to Eastern Kentucky mountain biking being the next big thing. It’s time to realize that amazing potential that lies hidden underneath a canopy of Appalachian hardwood forests.
The Bluegrass Region, through the Bluegrass Chapter of KyMBA, has seen a “boom” of mountain biking development beginning with Capitol View in Frankfort and followed by mountain biking trails in public parks in Lexington, near Georgetown and now in Versailles. The momentum of the Bluegrass Chapter is a nabbing of the low hanging mountain biking fruit of Central Kentucky. All the while few MTBers are husbanding the immense potential of the Cumberland Plateau.
All around the state there is an outcry of “What will we do if coal leaves Eastern Kentucky?” It’s coming both from pro-coal and those who oppose continued use of mountain top removal in Eastern Kentucky. Everyone understands the implications of a change in paradigm, whether they oppose or support the change. Eastern Kentucky is losing its last popular industry.
For a few years there has been a push to increase adventure tourism in Eastern Kentucky to bolster economic development. My inner soul only wants access to these areas for me and my friends, but my overall frustration at having grown up in a place with no economic opportunity causes righteous outrage to boil up and over in me and causes me to seek to improve the economic conditions for my home city, county, and state. I am not divided on this because I realize it’s not about just me and my friends, but about a community that is in crisis. There are economic, health, and ecological factors involved. My training in Sustainability Management has me chewing on my own restraints at the hideousness of the situation, and I can’t stop raving about making big changes.
In short, I am tilting at these windmills in hopes that others will finally see the dragons and pick up their lances and join me.
For more details you can email me at ascentionist at yahoo dot com.