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Ups, Downs, Comebacks, and Giving Back

Scales Lake County Park in Boonville, IN. It’s the local home trail to folks in Boonville, Evansville, and surrounding areas. While Southern Indiana is full of fabulous riding, beautiful scenery, and a tight and active mountain biking community, this far corner of the state is still on the cusp of really taking off.

The Evansville Mountain Bike Association (EMBA), established years ago, eventually fizzled out due to all-too-common attrition of leadership and member engagement. Happily, EMBA was resurrected around February of this year and looks to be building steam.

EMBA members, along with folks from Boonville and the Boonville Bike Club, are active in doing trail work out at Scales Lake, which is full of ups and downs in the very literal sense. Scales has a number of steep “G-out” features that send riders down one steep embankment and back up another. There are several opportunities to catch air, and a few spots that may invite you to hit the ground less than gracefully. The place definitely keeps you on your toes, and having “local knowledge” of the trail and its features is a real advantage here.

The Boonville Bike Club was started by middle school teacher and fat tire shredder, Brad Scales. Brad grew up in Boonville and went to the same middle school where he now teaches math and science. After spending time away in California and Colorado, Brad returned to Boonville, along with his longtime love of mountain biking. He wanted to share that love with his students, so he started the bike club for them.

In the bike club, now at about 40 members, students are introduced to mountain biking, learn bike safety and mechanical skills, and do regular group rides at Scales Lake – with their beloved Mr. Scales (likely a distant relation to the park’s namesake). Brad, his students, and other adult supporters have also cut in about 3/4 mile of singletrack on the middle school’s property and will continue to expand it. They also have plans to build a skills park and pump track nearby. Brad’s plans don’t end there – he would like to extend the club to high schoolers when he has enough adult ride leaders to support that, and he has his eye on getting a high school racing league going in the region. No doubt some of his middle school protégés will be among the competitors.

The story in Boonville is a great example of resourcefulness and what a few committed individuals can accomplish. Brad got in touch with the local Sheriff’s department, which donated 30 bikes that were in storage from confiscations, lost and stolen property, etc. Brad has also raised funds through grants, rebuilding and selling used bikes, events, and private donations. He’s used this money to purchase tools and supplies for the club, as well as to help fund our recent Trail Care Crew visit. While Brad and a few other helpers have gotten things rolling in a big way, they will need to enlist more support from the community to keep things going strong in the long term.

Our weekend was full of learning from a few different angles.  On Friday we did a Club Care presentation, which empowers clubs with tips on how to build and sustain a successful bike club and advocacy effort.  Then we had our Saturday Trail Building school, in which we rerouted a section of trail to make it safer and more sustainable. The old trail was an unsustainable fall line trail that spat riders out at high speed onto the main park road by a busy petting zoo. Volunteers, armed with their new knowledge from the morning’s classroom session, cut in a reroute around a hillside, putting riders parallel to the road for a stretch before they cross and giving them a more interesting, safer, and more sustainable riding experience. Then they closed and reclaimed the old section of trail, which is always a great presto-change-o experience as the old trail vanishes.  On Sunday we did a riding skills clinic with a few club members and were joined by Field Programs Director, Ryan Schutz, and his wife and former Trail Care Crew partner, Kristin Butcher.

Between Brad, the Boonville Bike Club, EMBA, and a strong surrounding mountain biking community, we see great things in the future of this corner of Indiana. We’d love to see them joining forces and pooling resources to grow riding opportunities and feed the future of the sport in the area. They are off to a great start!

Photos from our visit

Stop action time lapse of our work day
(Shadows make it a bit hard to see.)

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