Asheville Parks & Recreation has been the trusted steward of the city’s unique portfolio of parkland and natural spaces since it was established in 1956. The department currently oversees the programming, safety, and usage of parks and facilities covering over 900 acres of land and water. While routine maintenance and replacement of recreation infrastructure happens on a set schedule, new project ideas from creative community members also play a part in expanding and enhancing sports and leisure experiences for all who call Asheville home, as was the case with bike skills trails at Richmond Hill Park.
Pisgah Area Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) collaborated with Parks & Recreation to develop a natural surface trail incorporating the existing Purple Trail, user-created trails, and new construction for riders to safely build mountain biking skills on beginner and intermediate loops. A public-private partnership, the City funded $10,000 toward the project and provided the land. Pisgah Area SORBA and private donations provided the additional $20,000 as well as hundreds of volunteer hours. The group also made a commitment to maintain the trails which is imperative for a public outdoor course that can see heavy usage, flash flooding, and other challenges.
Describe the project in your own words.
There are actually two different pieces. In 2020, Pisgah Area SORBA developed the bike park with entry-level and intermediate loops for riders of different levels to build skills. Rocks, step ups, elevated skinnies, and other elements were brought in to increase technability close to town. These trails provide a safe environment to keep people from going out to remote places where they might get hurt.
Pisgah Area SORBA volunteers provide continual maintenance by removing trees, cutting back vegetation, and freeing drainage of brush to keep the trails from getting wider and wider which can also lead to biker conflicts. Keeping trails tight and water out of corridors is the primary way to maintain user experience.
What does it mean to you and others to volunteer on this project?
Most of us are trail advocates who recognize the importance of connections and it creates pride through stewardship. All of us recognize that it takes collective work to have these amenities that can be used by their friends, family, neighbors, and others in our community.
Any interesting connections or memories of working on this or another parks project?
There are a lot of really good people between Parks & Recreation staff, youth racing leagues, volunteers, instructors, and many others. This project creates an effect that leads to building the next project as people see what’s possible.
These volunteers are putting in lots of hard work, back-breaking work. All volunteers who work on trails are medically trained, so there’s an expectation that minor injuries are a possibility. If people want to see the trail work get better, it takes real dollars to pull them off – just like lighting, playgrounds, greenways, and features that you’ll find in other parks. As more people are rediscovering the outdoors, many are making withdrawals from the forests and outdoors without putting anything back. We’re trying to educate while also building new experiences.
For information on getting involved with Pisgah Area SORBA, visit their site. For Asheville Parks & Recreation updates and events, follow the department on Facebook @aprca and Instagram @ashevilleparksandrecreation.