Tour De Trash Mountain Biking Trail
By Corbet Deary PROMOTIONS CONTRIBUTING WRITER

 

The mountain biking community is steadily growing, but trails throughout the Ouachita Mountain Region catering to bikers are sparse.
   The Womble, sections of the Ouachita National, the Charlton and Little Blakely trails are all four popular destinations for riders. Each trail varies a great deal in distance. The Ouachita Trail offers the longest ride, with 137 miles of the path open to bikers, while the Charlton Trail stretches only 4.2 miles.
   Itís not uncommon for experienced riders to cover 20 to 30 miles in a day, and the hardcore peddlers occasionally travel in the neighborhood of 60 miles. At this rate, one can only imagine how soon every designated path can be completed. Henceforth, they return time and time again, lending to an unsurpassed familiarity of each route.
   Recently, another trail was added to their repertoire of riding destinations. The Tour De Trash, a multi-use trail located on Cedar Glades Road near Hot Springs, is only six miles in length, but has much to offer, and mountain bikers are sure to be enticed into many return visits.
   When asked how the trail came to be, Gary Strakshus, an avid mountain biker and member of the Hot Springs Bicycle Association, said the concept was brought to him about three years ago, when some Garland County officials recognized the opportunity to utilize the section of land that had previously served as the Garland County landfill, and its surrounding area.
   Not only would county residents benefit from a park setting, including a pavilion, picnic tables and rest rooms, but there was also ample room at Cedar Glades County Recreational Park for a trail system.
   "The facility offered an excellent opportunity for recreation," Strakshus said. "Everybody thinks of landfill as a bad word, but the recreation park kind of hides it, and gives people a destination to enjoy the outdoors. It is actually beautiful out here."
   Strakshus had a point. Many automatically draws a mental picture of a desolate eyesore when the word landfill is mentioned, but a good portion of the trail runs along the edge of Bull Bayou Creek, through a pristine wooded area. The section of the previous landfill that the northern extremity of the loop traverses, has been reclaimed and lends to a beautiful, green pasture setting. The path also makes its way along the outer perimeter of the new landfill, but a 100- foot-wide wooded buffer around the facility ensures its seclusion.
   Strakshus said construction of the recreation park began about two years ago and an opening ceremony was held in October 2002.
   "The county put a buffer zone around the perimeter of the facility and pretty well turned me loose," Strakshus said. "I would flag a route and club members and other volunteers would pitch in and help build the trail."
   Although Strakshus designed the majority of the path, he was quick to praise his fellow volunteer trail workers for their countless hours of hard work and dedication.
   To date, Gary Strakshus has logged more than 300 hours on the trail project, while brothers Vincent and Michael Matthews of Malvern each have about the same amount of time involved.
   Including the time freely given by other volunteers, one could safely say, several thousand hours have been spent building the designated path. Gary said Teen-Challenge spent several hours on the trail as well, especially during the construction of the half-mile ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) loop, located at the parking area.
   "Thereís been a good turnout for trail work," he said. "We have designated work days when folks can come out and volunteer as a group. Itís not uncommon for 30 people to show up and work for three or four hours. At that rate you can get a lot done. The majority of the trail construction took place in the heat of last summer."
   Even though six miles of trail is completed and on the ground, Strakshus said the project is ongoing. "Weíre trying to provide a good mix of beginner, intermediate and advance routes. It will eventually be marked accordingly. If youíre a beginning rider, youíll know the path to follow, but a more technical and demanding section has been designed for the experienced riders as well. The trail user will have the convenience of several offshoots and dissecting trails. There will be signs distinguishing difficulty levels at each intersection."
   "Weíve got it all," he said, while speaking for himself and fellow mountain bikers. "There are three creek crossings, climbs, descents and jumps. The section where the old landfill has been reclaimed is wide open and you can see people coming and going from a mile away. There is something for everyone.
   "I know of 12-year-old youngsters that just love the system. The rough stuff can be avoided if needed, but most riders will more than likely look forward to the challenge.
   "We have a nice mix of single and double track for passing. The double track is important, especially during races. Sometimes racers get bottlenecked and when the double track opens up, it allots the riders an opportunity to pass their competitors."
   When asked his favorite section of the trail, Gary said, "I like the downhill. Anybody who has ridden out here brings it up. Itís in the neighborhood one-quarter of a mile straight downhill, and will make your heart pound."
   Strakshus said the Tour De Trash Race was held at the facility in November 2002, and is now an annual event. Racers show up at the final competition of the Arkansas Racing Series with anticipation of receiving their final trophies and points. Gary said the event has a great turnout.
   "Mountain Biking is a growing sport, and there arenít as many trails in the Ouachitas open to bicycles as we would like," Strakshus. "We lost the 7.5-mile Attila The Hun loop at the Hot Springs Waterworks facility due to safety issues after September 11, 2001, and the trail at Camp Robinson was closed as well.
   "Hopefully theyíll be reopened once security issues lighten up. We needed something close and the Tour De Trash was a perfect opportunity for the Mountain Biking Community.
   "Folks are starting to realize we are trail friendly, and good stewards of the forest. We participate in a lot of trail maintenance. Mountain bikers are always picking up litter and keeping the paths free of fallen trees and other debris. Multiuse is the way to go. Weíve got to live together, and thereís no reason we canít all bike, hike, walk and run in harmony."
   Garyís conviction of the importance of multi-use trails will be evident upon arrival of the facility. Folks of all interest will have no problem finding something to keep them occupied.
   To get to the trail, from Central Avenue in Hot Springs, take Whittington Avenue. From Whittington, take a quick right on Cedar Street and go to Cedar Glades Road. Once on Cedar Glades Road, travel over the mountain and the parking area is on the right at the base of the mountain immediately before the road crosses a bridge.
   For more information pertaining to the trail and specified volunteer workdays, contact Gary Strakshus at (501) 525-1977 or Denise Potts at (501) 622-3654.