Love Where You Live: Mountain bikers blazed their own trail at Bonneyville Mill

By Marshall V. King

A group of local mountain bikers didn’t just come after a trail was built. They actually came to build it and then stayed to ride it.

Now many of the people involved in the trail construction at Bonneyville Mill County Park are regular riders, part of the Monday night group that hits the 6.2-mile trail hard.

They gather around 5 p.m. and pedal off into the woods. Some of the men and women ride a lap or two. Others ride for hours. New people hear about the group and show up to join in. “That’s what we like,” said Mike Yoder, one of the people who has been riding for the last four years.

The 6.2-mile mountain biking trail at Bonneyville Mill County Park is challenging. “You’ve got to be on your game,” one regular said. (Photos by Grant Beachy)

Spencer Short and Jeff Margush approached the Elkhart County Parks in 2011 about a possible trail. They started work in 2013. Those who wanted the trail would gather to find its way through the trees and build in spaces for a bike to go through. After a year or so of building the trail, the grand opening in 2014 launched its public use.

“I got tired of driving 45 minutes to get to any other trail,” said Short, who owns Pumpkinvine Cyclery in Middlebury. “We have this community of mountain bikers here. Why not having something here?”

The trail is challenging with switchbacks and banked turns. It winds through the woods and has plenty of places where a rider has to hang on to stay on the bike. “You’ve got to be on your game,” said Jud Gingerich.

Many of the riders also participate in group rides across Elkhart County’s rural roads, but riding a trail means you don’t have to worry about motorists or keeping up with the pack. “The group of guys is awesome,” said Chad Morton of Middlebury.

Ten to 20 men and women gather on Mondays for the group ride, but whenever Short visits the trail, he encounters someone enjoying it on a bicycle.

The mountain biking trail at Bonneyville Mill County Ride is a popular feature in the park, drawing riders all days of the week, including an organizing Monday evening ride. (Photos by Grant Beachy)

Designing the trail was fun. Building it was cool. But now Short and others are thrilled to see how it’s being used and how people gather to ride together. “Middlebury and Elkhart County has a bike culture now,” Short said.

Nick Vogel, prior to riding off onto the trail, said, “We do mountain bike Monday. Come on out.”

 

The entrance to the mountain bike trail at Bonneyville Mill County Park between Middlebury and Bristol is near the main parking lot and the one for the One Room Schoolhouse.

 

Marshall V. King is a Goshen-based free-lance writer. He wrote this piece for Vibrant Communities.

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