September 5, 2010

Energy boost

Volunteers and riders build trails and form clubs as a passion for mountain biking spreads in Maine

By Deirdre Fleming dfleming@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Maine has had mountain bike races for decades, like the legendary Widowmaker that ran for 20 years at Sugarloaf and the rocky, technical race held in the bowels of Biddeford at Clifford Park.

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Brian Danz of the Greater Portland chapter of the New England Mountain Biking Association rides with beginning mountain bikers at Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal last Saturday.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

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Keith McMullan of South Portland adjusts the seat for his daughter, Lydia, 11, right, as sister Izzy, 9, watches on Saturday before a ride for mountain bike beginners at Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

RIDERS GET ORGANIZED

Maine's chapters of the New England Mountain Bike Association:

Carrabassett Region, www.nemba.org/aboutnemba/Carrabassett.html

Central Maine, cemenemba.org

Greater Portland, www.nemba.org/aboutnemba/GreaterPortland.html

Midcoast Maine, www.nemba.org/aboutnemba/MidcoastMaine.html

BRADBURY 12-HOUR MOUNTAIN BIKE RACE

WHERE: Bradbury Mountain State Park, Pownal

WHEN: Sept. 18

WHO: Riders racing solo and on relays over a roughly 9-mile course, sometimes in costumes.

SPECTATOR FRIENDLY: Yes

WHAT ELSE: The event includes a barbecue and live band in the afternoon

OF NOTE: Due to the large number of riders, parking will be limited in the park.

LEARN MORE: Go to www.bradburytwelve.com

But four years ago when Pat Hackleman asked officials at Bradbury State Park in Pownal to let him hold a 12-hour mountain bike race there, few knew what was to come.

Just 70 racers showed that first year. This month, roughly 300 riders will come from as far as Quebec, Vermont and Tennessee, and others will be turned away.

Hackleman, a mountain biker who guided out West, saw what riders wanted.

Now in Maine officials from state government to town recreation programs are seeing it too, a renaissance in this gritty sport from Portland to Presque Isle.

In the past three years, four chapters of the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA) have formed in Maine and begun building and opening up mountain bike trails.

It's a woodland movement fueled by like-minded volunteers -- but what's unusual is they have harnessed an energy that spans the length of Maine.

Working separately, these clubs have won grants, hired Subaru-sponsored trail engineers and passionately taken hold of their single-track destiny.

Phillip Keyes, executive director of NEMBA in Acton, Mass., said Maine's current cycling synergy stands out for its pure spontaneity and simple spirit. And he doesn't see it slowing down.

"What is unique about the Greater Portland and Carrabassett Region chapters, they didn't form out of crisis. They didn't form because riding areas were being shut down. All four Maine chapters started out of a positive desire to do great things for mountain biking," Keyes said.

EPICENTER OF IT ALL

The Bradbury-12 mountain bike race didn't put Bradbury State Park on the map as a mountain bike destination, but Hackleman highlighted the crazy devotion for the sweet, rooty single track there. And he gave back, a gesture that has become a defining trait of Maine mountain bike clubs.

The 34-year-old owner of Casco Bay Sports donated race proceeds the first few years to the state park because he knows the biases that have existed against mountain bike riders.

This year a portion of the proceeds will go to one of NEMBA's newest chapters in Portland.

Bradbury has benefited not only from mountain bike traffic and the riders' adopt-a-trail program -- the riders who gather there have put the park on the map.

"It really has turned what was a low-use park into a park that now people come to from all over," said Will Harris, director of the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.

"People are coming and word is getting around that we have a quality set of bike trails. We're happy we have this kind of special thing."

From this epicenter the corps of riders demanding trails seemed to grow. Riders were looking for new options, more technical terrain, and unending, connecting dirt trail.

It was on this hope that the Greater Portland NEMBA chapter was born in October 2009.

NEMBA is an umbrella organization that helps its chapters apply for grants and negotiate land access, trail maintenance and development.

So when Portland mountain bike rider Mitch Wacksman wanted a club to help him in his quest to open more trails, he formed one with the help of NEMBA.

In less than a year, the Greater Portland NEMBA chapter has received $6,000 in grants and partnered with the town of Falmouth to build and share trails there.

It's been a lot of work, especially for someone who never ran a nonprofit, but Wacksman said there is so much interest in the chapter there is no stopping its momentum.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Volunteers with the Carrabassett Region chapter of the New England Mountain Biking Association work on a trail on Aug. 21. Mountain biking clubs in Maine have been busy building and opening trails.

Courtesy Carrabassett Region NEMBA chapter

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Pat Hackleman, founder and director of the Bradbury-12.

Courtesy photo

 


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