Community takes advantage of new bike trail

Photos by Kayla Renie/The Herald
Coleman Lovelace of Jasper and his son, Asher, 4, ride their bikes along the in-progress mountain bike trail in Jasper on Friday. Lovelace is one of the organizers of the Dubois County Trail Heads group. "We ride every day," Lovelace said. "What's great about the trail is that it's made of dirt, so that if [Asher] falls, he can brush it off and get back up, unlike concrete."

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

JASPER — When Coleman Lovelace and Ethan Trusty founded the Dubois County Trail Heads mountain bike club, they had no idea how popular the activity would be.

To their delight, the program took off, and in September, the club gained permission from the Greater Jasper School Board to build a beginning mountain bike trail on land the school owns between the Parklands and Jasper High School. Since the plot of land was already conducive to a mountain bike trail, Lovelace and Trusty planned to build the trail over a series of volunteer days where community members could grab a shovel and help build the trail. The pair thought it would take several weeks to build the trail. Turned out it only took three.

Although the trail isn’t officially open — Lovelace still has to put trail signage up — it is accessible to the community and members of the Dubois County Trail Heads, and it’s popular.

“I see people on it every time I’m out there,” said Lovelace, who visits the trail about twice a week to ride it himself or build additional obstacles such as rollers and small jumps.

For him, seeing people consistently use the trail is a dream come true. When he moved to Jasper from Texas about five years ago, he had the goal of building a mountain bike community like the one he enjoyed out west. When he met Trusty, he learned Trusty had the same dream. Together, the two formed the Dubois County Trail Heads and the Jasper National Interscholastic Cycling Association team for Greater Jasper schools. NICA is a competitive mountain biking league.

Coleman Lovelace of Jasper helps his son, Asher, 4, get back up on his bike while his wife, Jennifer, and daughter, Jaydalynn, 2, follow them on foot at an in-progress mountain bike trail in Jasper on Friday. Lovelace is one of the organizers of the Dubois County Trail Heads group.

The track’s main purpose is a practice space for the NICA team, but Lovelace and Trusty also wanted to make it available to the community. Community is big for Lovelace, and he made sure to honor the community in the name of the trail — Birk and Berg Bike Trail. The name honors William Birk, the farmer who owned the land the trail sits on before it was sold to the school corporation. Birk married into the Berg family, and he and an in-law founded Birk and Berg, a land holdings company. Descendents of Birk and Berg still live in the area.

“I thought what a cool way to give that name back to the family,” Lovelace said.

He’s grateful to Birk for tending the land in such a way more than a century ago that the plot became difficult for the school to repurpose but perfect for a bike trail. The name is meant to honor the history of the plot of land and the hard work that went into tending the homestead that once stood on it.

As the trail gets up and running, Lovelace has plans to hold community engagement events, including a new event to raise money for the American Cancer Society called the May Bike Relay. Modeled after Relay for Life, the event will have teams bike for a 24-hour period. Although social distancing may keep the event from launching the way organizers would like, Lovelace said they plan to hold it in some fashion. More details will be released in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, individuals and families are free to ride the trail while maintaining social distancing, Lovelace said. The trail markers aren’t up yet, but it’s a pretty easy trail to follow, Lovelace said.

“They’ll either end up at the Parklands or the high school,” he said. “The trail always leads somewhere.”




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