Brian Hunt kneels on the moist dirt and saws through the base of a small tree while Mike McFall pushes and pulls the tree, causing small loose branches and leaves to fall on them. Between the two men, the tree is weakened until it snaps and falls over.
Meanwhile, 10 feet away, Nick Arvin cuts into the side of a hill, shoveling dirt out, widening an already existing dirt path at the Rangeline Nature Preserve near a small pond.
The three men were volunteering their time Saturday morning to help fix existing paths and constructing new ones to create a six- to eight-mile mountain biking trail within the large preserve. Several other volunteers were working on other sections of the trail that morning as well.
“At this rate, we will complete it sometime this year, this summer,” Brian Holzhausen, president of Do INdiana Off-road (DINO), said. “Some take several years. This one has some existing trails we can reclaim and complete the picture.”
Although people have been working on the trail for several weeks, Anderson city officials and members of biking organizations unveiled the project on Saturday morning.
The trail will become a destination for people from all over, Holzhausen said, who was happy to be a part of the development of a high quality trail.
“We have had cases where we built mountain bike trails and new people come into the sport and change their lifestyle,” he said. “They lose weight, become healthy.”
Doug Zook, superintendent of the Anderson Parks and Recreation Department, is excited about the biking and hiking trail.
“The property was purchased by the city in 1989 and sat as an informal piece of property,” he said. “In 2004 it opened as a nature preserve to be used by the community. It was a primitive nature preserve with 3 1/2 miles of gravel walkways.
“What’s really neat is we walked this trail with DINO people last April, and here we are nine months later and the program has started,” he said. “I’ve seen many groups, local government, volunteers working together to make it work.”
There are many attractions for nature lovers at the preserve, including, beautiful trees and foliage, lakes and ponds, hills and dips in the land, and animals.
“There are a lot of native trees to Indiana here, and wildlife,” Zook said. “It is the epitome of a beautiful piece of land in Anderson. We sometimes forget how beautiful nature is.”
Zook and Katherine Goar, director of Community Development and Long Term Planning, displayed sample signs that will be placed along the trail.
The beginner’s trail will be marked off by a green circle and the advanced trail will be symbolized by a black diamond. A possible intermediate trail would be a blue square. The signs will have areas for sponsorship logos and directions to the parking lot.
“This will hopefully gear people in skill levels to the appropriate route,” Zook said. “They will be able to follow the trail in a good way.”
The total course will be six to eight miles long. All skill levels start together for the first two or three miles, then the beginners turn around and the advanced riders go on.
On one side of the preserve there are many cut and fill areas, mounds and holes, adding to the advanced riding. On the far west side is a more natural hillside.
From the lowest point to the highest within the park is 40 to 50 feet difference.
“Mountain biking is a lifelong sport for both men and women,” said Mike Hufhand, president of the Hoosier Mountain Biking Association. “You don’t need mountains for mountain biking. In Indiana we have some of the best mountain biking, and don’t have mountains.”
The city, organizations and volunteers began working on the trail in the first week of January. So far there are about 15 volunteers helping out, with about six of those coming at one time on Saturdays.
“We have a great volunteer base with a lot of avid racers,” Hufhand said. “It’s a lot of fun to get fit this way. It’s fun helping create this.”
One of the volunteers who helped lay out the trail and is now helping build it is Anderson resident Jeff Carter.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “I’ve been riding here for 10 years myself. I know the area well. It was really tough keeping the trails clean by myself. Now it’s better with a crew.”
Carter, 37, who became an avid mountain biker in 1999, gets out for a ride twice a week, three hours at a time.
“I hope the trail gets more people mountain biking,” he said. “It’s really a great sport. I really enjoy coming out here and helping out.
“I kind of hope bike shops get into the mountain biking stuff. It will help business for them to bring bikes in.”
The physical works is done on a volunteer basis, so is therefore not costing the city in man power. The city does have a small budget for materials and is accepting sponsorship and donations for building bridges and signs, Holzhausen said.
Mike McFall, another volunteer, is happy to help restore and add to the trails because he is a frequent visitor as well.
“It’s a good community project,” the 39-year-old Anderson resident said. “I have three girls at home and I’d like to bring them here. It’s a good family sport. It’s a good way to get out. We go hiking and biking — our two big things.
“I’ve been coming here 20 years,” he said. “This is home. I love it down here. I’d love to get other people out enjoying nature.”
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