uman Powered Trails, Inc. is a non-profit organization whose mission is: “To develop and maintain first class sustainable and environmentally correct, human-powered, shared use trails for the La Crosse, WI region."
|Adrenaline: Human Powered Trails prepare for biking bonanza|
|Written by Denis Downey | La Crosse Tribune|
|Sunday, 17 June 2007 17:45|
The Human Powered Trails on Grandad Bluff have seen increasing popularity in their seven years of existence, but it likely has never seen the population it will experience Saturday when it hosts the Bluffland Enduro Races and the Wisconsin Singlespeed championship.
“We expect to have about 100 to 150 riders,” Dan Luebke, one of the event organizers, said. “Most of the races overlap at one time or another. We expect the peak time to be around 4 p.m., when we will have about 80 or so riders on the trails at the same time.”
The Bluffland Enduro Races will include 12-, 6- and 3-hour events, while the singlespeed race will cover an 18-mile loop.
Saturday’s races are this year’s major fundraiser for the Human Powered Trails, a 7-mile loop of shared-use — biking, hiking and running — trails near the observation point on Grandad Bluff.
The trails are a joint effort between the La Crosse Park and Recreation Department, the Hixon Forest Nature Center and Human Powered Trails, Inc., a non-profit organization that maintains the trails.
“This is a big day for us,” Luebke said. “Not only is it our major fundraiser, but it gives us a chance to show off all the work that has gone into building the trail system.”
In the beginning
The birth of the Human Power Trails came from a group of mountain bikers who were tired of trying to find a place to ride.
“The idea really came from a bunch of cyclists who were looking to ride legally and safely and not have to worry about being on private property,” said Bob Marhefke, chief operating officer of Human Powered Trails, Inc. “We approached the city and got their blessing to use parts of the area (where the trails are located).
“From that point on, we got busy forming a working group to develop the multi-use trails.”
‘Our volunteers are our biggest resource’
But there’s a big step between planning the trails and using them.
“It takes a lot of physical effort to create the trails,” Luebke said. “It is almost all done by hand tools, doing everything from clearing brush to clearing topsoil to get to the harder ground to clearing dead trees out of the way and building up the trails so water will run off them and hopefully they won’t erode.”
And just how do you build such a trail system when you are just starting out and have limited funding? Why, you rely on what over the years has become HPT’s greatest commodity — its volunteers.
“Our volunteers are our biggest resource,”said Luebke, an HPT volunteer who helps oversee the group’s volunteer efforts. “It (HPT) would not be where it is without the volunteers. None of us gets paid. Without the help of those people there would be about a half mile of trail out there and we probably would have petered out by now.”
Each week the group puts out a call for help grooming the trails at 5:30 p.m. Mondays. And each week the call gets answered by individuals willing to take part in what seems like a never-ending effort.
“It ranges from three guys to a few dozen (volunteers each week),” Marhefke said. “Of late, we have been getting 18 to 20 people at a time. I’m always amazed at how the work is and how many of these people keep coming back.”
And by Marhefke’s calculations, the contributions of the group’s volunteers are invaluable.
“It takes one person an hour to build 10 feet of trail. And we have seven miles of trails out there, so you do the math,” Marhefke said. “We figured out somewhere that if we put a dollar value on the man hours we have spent out there, it is well over $1 million.”
Cooperation is the key
The key to the success thus far for the Human Powered Trails is cooperation. It’s also the key for the trail system’s future plans and success.
“It takes a lot of cooperation. The city, Hixon (Forest) and now even the MVC (Mississippi Valley Conservancy) has gotten involved in helping plan for future trails,” Marhefke said. “We are always looking to expand the trails, but it will take a group effort.”
It’s a group effort that so far has been beneficial to the parties involved.
“It has worked out pretty well so far,” said Stephanie Hana, naturalist educator at Hixon Nature Center. “I think it is a neat addition to the recreation we have a Hixon.
“We have a really good relationship. They help us promote the forest and we help them promote what they are doing.”
“It’s taken some time, but it has really worked with the bikers, horse and hiking groups,” added Andy Reshel of the La Crosse Park Department. “It’s really a unique situation where we have this kind of a large pristine area for all of these groups to enjoy together.”