LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Many enthusiasts cross state lines to find mountain bike trails, but fortunately for Nebraskans, mountains aren't a requirement.
There are two mountain bike trails in the Lincoln area, one at Branched Oak State Recreational Area and one at Wilderness Park, that provide a path to ride close to home.
Avid riders Roxzanne and Ryan Feagan first met on a trip for mountain biking enthusiasts to Moab, Utah, in 2002.
Since then, from teaching mountain biking classes to running the Psycowpath mountain bike racing series in Nebraska, the Feagans have pedaled hard to build interest in the sport.
The couple has also played a significant role in improving and maintaining the mountain bike trails in the area.
"The focus on destination building of trails has completely changed," Roxzanne Feagan told the Lincoln Journal Star. "Building trails closer to home, where people can access and ride within riding distance or driving distance, is a huge part of the movement."
Feagan is a past president of Trails Have Our Respect, a trail-maintaining organization now led by Todd Saylor.
Saylor said that Trails Have Our Respect, better known as THOR, is focused on design, build, maintenance and education.
"On a day-to-day basis, we mostly do maintenance," Saylor said. "We don't own any of the trails, so it's all assistance and it's in conjunction with the owners."
While volunteers offer their time to work on the trails, THOR has equipment they use in general upkeep. Mowers, weed eaters and old-fashioned elbow grease make the trails what they are.
"A lot of it is keeping the trails open and accessible," Saylor said. "We're focused on mountain bikers, but everyone is open to using the trails. Anybody who is a hiker, dog walker or bird watcher, it's open. We have a large trail-running community, too."
The 70 miles of trail that THOR helps maintain in Nebraska keep volunteers busy. Saylor said in many cases, people take an hour after their workday ends to work on the trails.
Trail leaders are in charge of overseeing the needs at individual courses and then allocating resources to keep them in shape.
Trails for mountain biking differ from regular biking trails in several ways. For the most part, they're dirt-based. Recreational trails for running and biking in Lincoln are largely hard-surfaced.
Mountain bike trails are also surrounded by natural grasses and as a result are more secluded. That can create a lot of work for those overseeing maintenance of the trails.
"It is a big undertaking," Saylor said. "Especially when it rains a lot in the spring and the grass can grow up to a foot in one day."
Nevertheless, Saylor sees mountain bike riding gaining momentum in Nebraska.
Youth education programs, including one run by THOR, are growing, and Saylor remains focused on his goal of making Nebraska a "destination spot to ride, but a home spot for riders in our area."
Swanson Park in Bellevue recently received a grant to help with construction of a mountain bike course.
"I would like to see people making a stop here, somewhere in Omaha or Lincoln, to ride our trails on their way to Colorado, Arkansas, wherever they're going," Saylor said. "That's what I want for our trails."
Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com