Skid steer at work on the Belle Isle Bike Skills Park
“Do you feel lucky, punk?”
Although this line was immortalized in a classic Dirty Harry movie, I often wonder if Richmond’s outdoor community asks themselves this question. I think most local outdoor enthusiasts would agree they feel pretty lucky to live in a city where opportunities abound right in the heart of our urban core. In most cities mountain bikers, trail runners, and hikers have to commute to get to any suitable terrain for their activity of choice. Fortunately, Richmond trail enthusiasts have the ability to drive into the city for arguably the best trail opportunities in central Virginia. These opportunities wouldn’t be possible without organizations like Richmond Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (a.k.a. RaMORE).
MORE, the parent organization to RaMORE, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Northern Virginia/District of Columbia that was formed in 1992. Together, the two organizations represent thousands of mountain bikers and maintain over 115 miles of urban trail in the Richmond and D.C. areaa. Richmond-MORE started in 2004 and is committed to environmentally sound and socially responsible mountain biking, facilitating recreational trail cycling, educating the public about the sport of mountain biking, maintaining local trails, and advocating for increased multi-use trail access.
I recently sat down with Greg Rollins, president of RaMORE, who shared some of his insight into the history and accomplishments of MORE over the years.
“In 2004, JROC (James River Outdoor Coalition) spearheaded the effort to bring multi-use trails to the area,” Rollins remembers. “This idea was fully embraced by Ralph White (JRPS Park Manager) and J.R. Pope (former Director of Parks and Recreation). These two men really helped to establish the vision of these initial trail efforts.”
Nathan Burrell (pictured) has been instrumental in the development of Richmond's trail system.
In recent years, city trails manager Nathan Burrell has galvanized the efforts to expand and enhance trail opportunities in our city. With the help of weekend volunteers, Burrell and MORE have made the trails in the James River Park a destination for riding. The Northbank Trail was originally put in to give the annual XTERRA off-road triathlon series a platform for a complete race loop. A fairly newer trail re-route in Forest Hill Park has created some additional fun within the park. Most recently, the Dogwood Dell section of trail (including the first hiking-specific trail) was completed, which revitalized an untapped area of green space in the city. These additional trails have also served to expand the rider experience near the James River Park.
Most notable is the excitement around the upcoming Belle Isle Skills Park. This project was endorsed and recommended by Mayor Dwight Jones’ Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission. This amazing opportunity comes about with a collaboration of area volunteer groups, including JROC, City of Richmond Trails Division, James River Park System, IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) and RaMORE. The skills park will offer a great facility for beginning and intermediate riders to learn the skills needed to be safe and successful on a mountain bike. It will also serve as a training ground for riders wanting to experience the almost 18 miles of technical trails in and around the James River Park.
“The progress is beyond my expectations” noted Rollins. “Everyone has really teamed together to make it happen and it showcases the true spirit of the area riding community”. The skills park will hopefully be completed by Memorial Day for all to enjoy.
The positivity behind these projects is evident in the spirit of the RaMORE trail-building volunteers and organizers as well as all supporters of these trail endeavors. All of the progress has a secondary impact on our city that many might not realize. The positive nature of these projects establishes positive users of the trails and pushes out the bad users. The supporters and volunteers of RaMORE are the ones leading the charge into making Richmond a Mecca for trail riding.
“We currently have between 15-40 volunteers show up each time we have a trail work day” Rollins said, further validating the commitment to our great city and it’s trail opportunities.
So do I feel lucky to have these trails to ride?…ABSOLUTELY! Now go out and RIDE!!!
To become a supporter of RaMORE please go to the website and click on the ‘Membership’ link. Also, if you would like to come out and volunteer at the skills park, this Saturday and Sunday (May 12-13) would be a great time to start. More details are available on the RaMORE website.