Family-friendly mountain bike trails coming to Standing Rocks Park
For the City Times
Submitted by Jon Gadbois
Point Area Single Track Association Volunteer
A new hobby taking the region by storm is beginning to take shape in Portage County. Single track mountain biking first started to pick up speed in the late 1970s, but flew largely under the radar until the last several years when more and more trails suitable for the sport began popping up around central Wisconsin.
Popular trails systems like the 9-mile county forest trail system in Wausau and the Hartman Creek trails near Waupaca have lured more and more enthusiasts out of the shadows and into the mainstream and put Wisconsin on the map as a destination for mountain bikers around the state, and even the country. The Copper Harbor trail system in the upper peninsula of Michigan was ranked as one of the top 5 trail systems in the world in 2012, attracting more than 20,000 bikers to the area every summer, according to the CHTC web site.
Portage County’s only official offering for mountain bike trails is Standing Rocks Park, which has been home to just over 14 miles of advanced trail riding for years. However, for the hundreds of new riders just getting into the sport, the trails at Standing Rocks were prohibitive due to the skill level needed to bike the trails. A good comparison would be to imagine a first-year skier out trying to ride black diamond ski hills.
Until now! Construction began on Friday, June 28th on a series of new beginner and intermediate level mountain bike trails that will stretch more than 8 miles at Standing Rocks Park. Construction is progressing quickly (more than 2 miles of new trail is already open to ride at the park), and trail builders hope to have much of the project complete by the end of August.
The Point Area Single Track Association (PASTA) has been leading the efforts to build the trails and to put Portage County on the mountain biking map.
John Leek, a PASTA group volunteer, said “Standing Rocks is a magnificent canvas for high quality mountain biking trails and will become the ‘hub’ for local riders of all ages and abilities. Further, the park will now be the first ‘destination worthy’ ride in Portage County for big city mountain bikers heading north.”
The new trails at Standing Rocks will transform the park from a haven for advanced riders only, into a go-to destination for riders of all ages and abilities, from kids or adults just learning the sport to the most advanced riders looking for a thrill ride.
Funding for the project, however, is still a work in progress. PASTA has been organizing the fundraising efforts for the new trail system, and is making great strides, but still has a long way to go if they are to turn their dream into a reality. To date, the group has raised under half of what will ultimately be needed to build the trails completely.
“Candidly, we need help to raise the money needed for this project.”, said Leek. “The building effort is tracking very well, but fundraising is trailing behind due to about six months of delays during the trail approval process. We’re working hard, but have a long way to go. Every little bit helps, and every large donation helps even more.”
Mountain bike trails aren’t the only new development under way at Standing Rocks park. The park is undergoing several new significant improvements, including a new year-round chalet under construction now, the downhill ski hill has undergone a recent renovation and the cross-country ski trails are being upgraded with new lights that will allow for night skiing.
Jake Barnes, from the Friends of Standing Rocks Park group, commented “The enhanced mountain bike trails will be a wonderful addition to the park. Slowly, but surely, Standing Rocks is being transformed into a fantastic multi-sport recreational area that will appeal to a wide variety of user groups. However, we need help on the fundraising side to achieve the vision for the park.”
To learn more about the mountain bike project, or any of the other renovation projects under way at Standing Rocks, visit the Point Area Single Track Association Facebook page and message the group directly, or visit the Standing Rocks landing page on the Portage County Parks web site. To make a donation to the trail building efforts, visit the Point Area Single Track Association Facebook page and click on the link to the Go Fund Me campaign, or contact the Community Foundation of Central Wisconsin and inquire about making a donation to the project.