The Tarheel Trailblazers, a local organization of mountain bike enthusiasts, is preparing to blaze new trails in Matthews.
Matthews commissioners recently renamed their newest park, on N.C. 51 near Phillips Road, the Purser-Hulsey Park, and approved an agreement between the town’s park and recreation department and the Tarheel Trailblazers to build approximately four miles of mountain bike trails.
They will build the trails and the group also will work with the town to design the trails and then be the primary caretakers – all at little cost to the town.
That’s what they do.
Tarheel Trailblazers president, Tom Ambrozevitch, works as a chemist by day but spends most of his off hours involved in Trailblazer projects.
“We’re a nonprofit group of local mountain bike riders who work closely with local land managers building and assisting in the maintenance of over 110 miles of carefully constructed, sustainable mountain bike trails in the metro-Charlotte area,” Ambrozevitch said.
The group’s work can be seen in a number of Mecklenburg County parks including Colonel Francis Beatty Park in Matthews, Park Road Park in Charlotte, and Fisher Farms Park in Davidson.
Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Director Jim Garges says the Trailblazers are indispensible to the county’s trail system.
“They really are our primary mountain bike trail building partners. They work with our natural resources staff to lay out trails and put in the sweat equity to build them. And then, because they use the trails so much, they help maintain them as well. They are wonderful partners,” Garges said.
The Trailblazers depend on membership fees, grants, private donations, and lots of volunteers to keep up the existing trails and build new ones.
Emily Watts, an auto-cad technician by occupation and mountain biker by avocation, is co-vice president of the group.
She said there is strength in numbers, so the more members on their roster, the better.
“We have over 300 members but could certainly use more. Our primary focus is trail advocacy and trail building, and the number of members matters when we are asking for more trail access, new land, and grants,” Watts said.
They are an all-volunteer organization, so every dollar received goes directly to trail building and maintenance.
Trailblazers co-vice president Will Washam, a town planner, said mountain biking offers the competition he became accustomed to while swimming and running, as well as the creativity he utilized while skateboarding and snow boarding.
He said there’s an added benefit for riders who help with trail construction and maintenance.
“When you build the trail, you get an understanding of how it works from the ground up. You’ve spent time on the trail and you can visualize the trail. When you get on your bike, you have a different perspective on how to ride it,” Washam said.
But if shovel-in-the-dirt work doesn’t appeal to you, Washam said there are lots of other volunteer opportunities.
“We have volunteers that help with website management, graphic design, social media, event coordination, land manager communications, trail building machine maintenance, and more. We need a lot of people with a lot of different skills sets to help us grow the mountain biking opportunities in the area,” Washam said.
Matthews Park Recreation and Cultural Resource Director, Corey King, said the town is thrilled with the promising new partnership.
“We are very excited about this new partnership. It’s a great relationship that will make trails available to the public a lot sooner than if we had paid a contractor to put them in,” King said.
“The work they have done is amazing. When you see their past projects in other parks they just seem to scream, ‘put me in Matthews too.’”
He said they will begin planning immediately and should start construction in six weeks or so after commissioners approve the final trail layout. He expects the trails to be open to walkers and riders in late fall.
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Annual membership for the Tarheel Trailblazers is $35, but you don’t have to a member to help with trail construction or maintenance. A work schedule and planned group rides are listed in the forum section of the website.