As recently as 2004, mountain-bike trails were non-existent in Brown County State Park in Nashville, Ind.
So what transformation took place to being recognized as one of the premier trail systems in the world in just a few short years?
It all started in 2003 when the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) published its annual report card, rating states based on factors such as trail access, quantity, and quality. Indiana was awarded a disappointing D+.
While off-road cyclists living in the state had some legal mountain-bike trails to ride, their access was limited, and many traveled more than six hours to places like eastern Kentucky, western North Carolina, or northern Michigan.
The low rating garnered attention from local mountain-bike advocates. Representatives from the Hoosier Mountain Bike Association (HMBA) and Indiana Bicycle Coalition began meeting with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to discuss mountain-biking on Indiana state properties.
As a result of those first meetings, HMBA was granted access to two of the state’s largest and most beautiful properties–Versailles State Park in the southeast part of the state and Brown County State Park near Nashville.
Volunteers rallied, beginning the daunting task of building sustainable trails that flowed well, followed the natural contours of the land, and resisted erosion.
Within three years, volunteers at both parks completed nine miles of purpose-built trails in Versailles, and more than 14 miles at Brown County State Park.
Then in 2007, the HMBA was awarded a $150,000 Recreational Trails Program Grant, and construction began on an additional 12 miles of flowing single track at the Nashville park. With the help of local professional trail builders, who were equipped with the proper machinery, most of these trails were laid out within a year.
Recognizing The Effort
Momentum for the trails really began when Bike magazine, in its March 2009 issue, named Brown County State Park as one of the top 33 trails in North America.
Mountain-bikers began to take notice of the quality of the trails, and soon the county was becoming a Midwest mountain-bike destination, attracting riders from across the country.
The success of Brown County State Park was only the beginning, and soon led to access and additional trails in O’Bannon Woods, Versailles, Fort Harrison, and New Harmonie state parks. These purpose-built trails were funded by a $250,000 trails grant awarded to HMBA by the governor in 2008.
The Crown Jewel
However, the crown jewel is the Brown County trail system, which features five independent loops and three connector trails. The 100-percent single-track system is fun for riders of all ages and abilities. The mountain-bike trails offer something for every level of rider.
The introductory Pine Loop trail, with its wide path, traverses a large pine-tree stand, and is great for teaching kids and beginners as it meanders through ravines and across beautiful wooden bridges.
The six-mile loop of Walnut Trail (Advanced Black Diamond) and Schooner Trace Trail (Expert Double-Black Diamond) challenges even the best mountain-bikers with dips, logs, rocks, bridges, a narrow trail, and steep ravines reminiscent of North Carolina or West Virginia.
Exploding With Events
The Brown County trail system has become home to some of the most popular mountain-bike events in the country. The DINO race (www.dinoseries.com) has consistently seen over 300 participants annually.
The state park is also home to the Midwest Women’s Mountain Bike Clinic (www.midwestwomensclinic.com). The event started in 2005 and is known as one of the largest and longest-running women’s mountain-bike events in the industry, bringing in coaches and participants from across the U.S. and Canada.
The Brown County Breakdown Epic Mountain Bike Ride (www.browncountybreakdown.com) is an annual fundraising event for the HMBA. The event–held in October–draws more than 600 riders, with nearly 20 different states represented, and has raised more than $85,000 since its 2005 inception. The smooth, flowing single track is also welcoming to hikers and trail runners.
In November 2011, the county was named an IMBA Epic location, a distinction given to only 57 of the most premier trails and rides around the world in the last 10 years (www.imba.com/epics/brown-county).
The story doesn’t end there, though. HMBA leaders are working hard to build an additional 25 miles of trails. These trails will give more options to riders and connect key locations within the state park; also provided will be an extensive “back-country” trail, allowing mountain bikers to make a day trip to Story, Ind., and easily link up with the Hoosier National Forest, where another 50+ miles of trails are available.
Indiana now offers enough riding opportunities to keep local mountain-bikers closer to home and give out-of-state riders a destination to add to their list.
For more information, visit www.browncountymountainbiking.com.
Tania Juillerat is from Brownsburg, Ind., and has been dedicated to the local mountain-bike community since 2005. Tania and her husband Jonathan run a grassroots company, promoting the sport of mountain-biking by fun and unique events throughout the Midwest. More information can be found at www.sub-9.com.