Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida is quite a special place. It is one of very few places where you can view manatees in numbers in their natural habitat, and people come from all over for the chance. Pretty soon, people may be coming from all over to mountain bike at Blue Spring State Park as well, especially since this region of Florida is lacking a mountain bike trail network with 20+ miles of unique trail – which is what’s planned for Blue Spring State Park. Most trails in the region are smaller in size, mostly in the 5 or 6 mile range.
Several local residents, working with permission from the park have been toiling away, cutting in new trail and plan to have the initial 5 miles available and open to the public by February 2012. Brothers John and Matt Wimer, along with Rick Myers and other volunteers, have been coordinating with Park Services Specialist, Laura Kruger, and working their fingers to the bone to make this happen.
This brings up a good discussion about something we refer to as “single soldier advocacy.” This refers to one or a small handful of people being fully responsible for spearheading the development of a trail system. This kind of model can work temporarily but is challenging as a long term solution due to the potential for volunteer burnout, and land managers wanting the support of an organization to build/maintain trails, rather than the risk of relying on only one or few individuals. What happens if one of these few key individuals leaves?
This weekend’s trail building school will hopefully provide a catalyst to bring together a large enough volunteer pool to create a sustainable club that has the size and resources to develop and support the major undertaking of a 20-mile trail system. Mountain bikers from Orange City, De Leon Springs, Orlando, Ocala, and surrounding areas came together to learn how to design and build sustainable trails, but just as importantly, they are recognizing the necessity to create a sustainable mountain bike club that has the size and resources to gain the trust and confidence of the Blue Spring State Park land manager.
We look forward to hearing about the progress of both the trail network and a sustainable mountain bike club to support this potential gem. Based on the passion and dedication of those we met this weekend, we are certain all those involved will work together to ensure the success and future of Blue Spring State Park mountain bike trails!