By Candis Birchfield
Attention mountain bikers! If you haven’t visited Chewacla State Park recently, you are missing out on the newest mountain bike trails in the state. Since 2012, the park has gained 16 miles of trails, thanks to the efforts of a group called the Central Alabama Mountain Peddlers (CAMP).
CAMP, founded in March 2012, is a mountain-biking organization that strives to promote trail advocacy, health, wellness and education by developing, maintaining and riding sustainable multi-use trails. A group of local mountain bikers formed CAMP after Danny James, owner of James Bros. Bikes in Auburn, helped facilitate a presentation from the International Mountain Biking Trail Care Crew.
CAMP is the official International Mountain Biking Association-Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association chapter of Central Alabama. The group is certified to work in a 10-county area, but the young organization’s primary trail-building efforts, thus far, have been centered in Chewacla State Park.
“So far, we have donated at least 5,000 hours of volunteer time to the building and maintenance of the trails in Chewacla,” says Mack Story, president of CAMP. “The majority of the trails are in a section of the park that had not been open to the public for a few years. The park gave that section to us to develop, and in addition to mountain biking, the trails can be used for hiking and trail running. The trails we develop are for everyone to use.”
Among the 16 miles of trails installed in Chewacla is the one-mile “CAMP Trail” that circles the campground, featuring wide turns, minimal elevation change and few obstructions.
“We had a 70-year-old woman ride it on a street bike, and we have had another person ride it in an electric wheelchair, so it’s definitely a trail anyone can use,” says Story. “The other trails in the park are more challenging, but we wanted to be sure to have a place where people can learn, cut their teeth and get used to their bike.”
CAMP also built a trail called “Ranger Dell’s Trail,” named after Chewacla State Park’s
manager, Odell Banks. The 0.7-mile trail includes a long, winding, rollercoaster-like wooden feature called the “Loch Ness Cobra” and offers an introduction to what it’s like riding on an undulating terrain.
The longest trail in the park, an eight-mile loop called “For Pete’s Sake,” is a labyrinth-like trail which includes rock gardens, dips, short climbs, fun runs, slightly technical climbs, narrow bridges, loose rocks and steep slopes. The trail begins and ends at the Hank/Graham Bridge, a 92-foot long structure that crosses over Town Creek and was built by CAMP volunteers.
“Our motto is, ‘We make things happen!’ Our volunteers are people of action, and we are giving back to our community. Mountain biking is an industry, and it drives a lot of dollars to the city. We are also adding to the health benefits of the community,” says Story. “We are in unchartered waters right now, which is exciting. CAMP is also a great place to meet great people. We are making a positive difference, and if you would like to make a positive difference, come join us.”
CAMP is becoming nationally recognized for the chapter’s exceptional work and efforts, and several new projects are underway including the construction of a skills area with a slalom course, half pipe, jumps, humps, twists and turns.
“The skills area will have all kinds of features and structures for people who are just getting into mountain biking so they can learn to negotiate certain aspects you might find on a trail, like logs and rock gardens, in a safe environment. The skills area will also be good for racing,” says Story. “We also plan to build an eight-to-10-mile flow trail in the back of the park where the terrain is steep. The flow trail will have a rollercoaster feel with a lot of elevation and speed.”
There are plenty of opportunities to get involved with CAMP. Individual membership is $30 annually with special rates for students, seniors and families. The organization meets at the beach pavilion at Chewacla State Park on Tuesday nights for beginner rides at 6 p.m. and intermediate rides at 6:30 p.m. Once daylight savings time ends, CAMP will host intermediate night rides exclusively on Tuesday nights. CAMP also hosts races, picnics, and regular workdays to build and maintain the trails. To keep up with the latest activities and events, visit the CAMP Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CAMP.SORBA.
For more information, including a map of the mountain bike trails in Chewacla State Park, visit the CAMP website at http://www.camp-sorba.org/.