Mid-South Trails Association - Then and Now

The Mid-South Trails Association was formed by concerned mountain bikers in the summer of 1996 after Shelby Farms Park banned mountain bikes from the trails along the Wolf River. Many of us attended Shelby Farms Board meetings and conversed with then park superintendent Tim Martin and the board members in an attempt to reverse this change.

Through these meetings MSTA members met Larry Smith, who at the time was Executive Director of the Wolf River Conservancy. Larry already had a planned route for a new trail segment to go around the natural area between Walnut Grove Rd. and Germantown Parkway.

In September 1996, the new trail was mapped out by a hiking expedition, then cut by a crew of about 20 people. The White Trail (first named Rainbow Trail) became a reality. This moderately challenging trail is an established part of the park, and is used by many mountain bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts

White Trail on old levee at Shelby Farms.

Signs built and installed for trail reroute at Herb Parson's Lake.

The Wolf River Bowhunters built a practice range and meeting area at Herb Parsons Lake. The existing trail went through the center of this new complex. This resulted in some tension between the mountain bikers and hunters.

TWRA rerouted the trail, but could not install signs due to budget restraints. The MSTA built and installed a number of signs at Herb's to direct trail users to the new trail around the hunter's area.

The bowhunter events close the trail on the north side of the lake. Their event schedule will be posted when it is available. Help keep the peace by riding somewhere else on those days.

In 2005 and MSTA continued to successfully represent the mountain bike community to local land managers. In March 2005, MSTA had a meeting with Damon Boyce, manager of Herb Parsons Lake. During that meeting we were told to continue the good work at Herbs. We also learned the archery range is going to be reorganized so the trail does not have to close during shooting events.

Damon also expressed a desire to spend more time on the trails, on a mountain bike. MSTA, in cooperation with our supporting bike shops, arranged the donation of a mountain bike and accessories. Our thanks to Bikes Plus, Peddler Bike Shop, and Bike World.

A tree weakened by the 2003 severe storm slowly fell and eventually crushed the long bridge at Herb Parsons. In November 2005, 17 volunteers from MSTA repaired the bridge. Lake manager Damon Boyce loaned MSTA their work boat to ferry tools, supplies and volunteers across the lake. This action not only shortened our repair time but shows Damon has confidence in MSTA by loaning this equipment.

November 2002 marked the new beginning of the Mid-South Trails Association. Our reorganization meeting reestablished the MSTA as an active organization.

The year 2003 was eventful for mountain biking in Memphis and for the MSTA. April marked the first ever visit of an IMBA Trail Care Crew visit to Memphis where members and visitors learned correct trail building and maintenance techniques.

During April and May the MSTA worked with Shelby Farms to revise the Tour-de-Wolf trail to accommodate the park's fence relocation project. This resulted in a longer and more interesting trail.

July 22, 2003, was a memorable day in Memphis. The most severe thunderstorm ever recorded passed through town causing unprecedented damage. Winds of 110 miles/hour and greater were recorded. The Memphis Light Gas and Water Division suffered the most extensive power outage in it's history. Even more wide spread than the ice storm of 1994.

Most of our trails suffered severe damage from fallen trees. MSTA members stepped up to the challenge. Within a few weeks the Tour-de-Wolf trail was cleared of damage and open for use. After several work sessions, The Stanky Creek Bike Trails were again open. As of November 2003, work continues at several more locations.

On September 20, the Mid-South Trails Association was among the 39 bike clubs around the country that participated in the national Public Lands Day program. Twenty-two people turned out to help improve trails at three locations in the Memphis area.

In November 2003, several organizations and individuals continue to perform volunteer trail clearing. In addition to the MSTA, members of the Wolf River Conservancy, Friends of the Lucius Burch Natural Area, and River City Wheelmen participate in work days to return our trails to good condition.

In 2004 MSTA continued to clear the trail damage from the 2003 Storm. By the end of the year, all local trails were open. Trees weakened by the storm continued to fall at most locations. This required continuing trail clean up days.

MSTA was chosen to represent off road cycling to the Shelby County Commission's committee to study the future of Shelby Farms. We created a presentation to showcase the contributions the mountain bike community makes in trail building and maintainence.

Another situation caused by the severe storm is loss of canopy. With many tall trees missing, ground cover plants grew at an accelerated rate. This was most evident along the Wolf River. MSTA volunteers posted 125 hours clearing the yellow, blue, and white trails outside the natural area in Shelby Farms.

In 2006 MSTA continued working to improve trail access and gain respect for off road cyclists. We widened our scope to include working on projects to improve conditions for all cyclists when no other organization would step in. MSTA had a position in the committee to recommend the design for a context sensitive solution to a road through Shelby Farms.

A project that began in late 2005 to add more trail at Herb Parsons was completed in 2006. The "Holiday Loop" added a mile of new trail where no trail previously existed. Our goal was to create the new trail matching the flowing nature of the existing trails. The project included two creek crossings. MSTA located an Eagle Scout candidate who designed and installed two large culverts in the creek. MSTA and lake manager Damon assisted with the project, but Boy Scout Andrew did all the leg work and provided all the workers.

During 2006 MSTA supported one of our own on station in Kuwait. Our member John G. was called to active duty and took his bike to Kuwait for recreation. John soon became the "go to guy" for bike repairs. MSTA received donations from our membership, Peddler Bike Shop, and Park Tools to keep John supplied and keep the troop's bikes rolling. MSTA, Peddler Bike Shop, and Park Tools all received a Certificate of Appreciation from John's Company Commander. We are all very proud to receive this honor.

MSTA partnered with several other organizations to form the Shelby Farms Trail Crew. This was proposed by the Shelby Farms Park superintendant to have only one entity to work with on trail issues. We continue to work with the other organizations in Shelby Farms.

When no other cycling organization stepped up to the challenge, MSTA became involved in the campaign to improve bike and pedestrian access through the Walnut Grove Road corridor. The construction is based on plans more than 15 years old when little consideration was given to alternative transportation methods. We are continuing to explore every possible viable alternative to improving bike access between the city of Memphis and Shelby Farms.

This year is an important milestone for Mid-South Trails Association. We are standing the test of time by celebrating five years in operation since our restart in January 2003. The mountain bike community has enjoyed numerous victories in these five years. In this time, we also have some disappointments.

MSTA became an IMBA member club to become allied with many other mountain bike organizations around the country. This alliance now goes world wide with the formation of IMBA Canada and representatives in the U.K, Europe, and Asia.

Our IMBA membership allowed us to bring the first ever IMBA Trail Care Crew class to Memphis. We also were in the first group of clubs to be awarded a tool kit funded by REI. This tool kit was valued at $500. MSTA gets liability insurance at an attractive rate from an IMBA partner company.

MSTA maintains a working relationship with the land managers holding areas with multi-­use trails. We have an agreement with the manager of Herb Parsons Lake to maintain and expand the trail system there with very little oversight.

One of our favorite riding areas transferred from Shelby County to City of Bartlett management in the last five years. The Bartlett Parks department now manages Stanky Creek under the new name Nesbit Park. This name honors the family who donated the property. MSTA is working with Bartlett Parks to assure that mountain biking remains one of the principal uses in the park. MSTA gave the park board copies of documents from family members that state their wish the property stay in a wild and undeveloped state.

In the late 1990's and early 2000's mountain bike racing reached to a low point of nonexistence in Memphis. Several MSTA members took on the challenge of reviving MTB racing when they formed Stanky Creek Cycling. The 12-Hours of Stank and Legend of Stanky Creek races were reinstated on the Tennessee MTB racing calendar. MSTA and SCC maintain a close relationship, but having an independent racing organization allows MSTA to maintain a broad appeal to every level of off road cyclist and other trail users.

July 22, 2003, is a date, which will be long remembered in Memphis history. On this date, the most severe storm ever, short of a tornado, struck Memphis. Thousands of fallen trees were everywhere. Power was out to thousands of customers, some for several weeks. Fallen trees also blocked many trails in our area. MSTA led the way in reopening our trails. Many of the fallen trees we cut today were killed as results of that storm and are just now falling.

Many off road cyclists became politically active for the first time in 2004. The state general assembly considered a bill correcting the boundaries of the Lucious Burch State Natural Area. That bill contained a provision for a setback from the Wolf River that would have kept our favorite yellow trail out of the natural area. Despite our best efforts, the setback was defeated. MSTA is still working with the new management of Shelby farms to find a way to return the trails along the Wolf River to multi-use status.

MSTA continues to look to the future. Our intent is to be sure off road cycling does not loose access to trails we now enjoy. We also get involved in other cycling related and community issues when no other organization shows the will to speak up for cyclists.

MSTA remains an independent member supported organization. We are not part of a large out of town organization and have no plans for that. Your membership dues and donations stay in Memphis to maintain our local trails.

I want to thank all of our members for their continuing support. That support is vital to keeping MSTA in the forefront of cycling issues. Our membership numbers continue to hover in the mid 80's. If we reach 100, we will be considered "large" by IMBA. I would have no problem writing IMBA that bigger check.

Thanks to all our members.

Brad Corey - President MSTA

MSTA Celebrating Our 5th Anniversary

MSTA meeting with Shelby Farms Park management - January 7, 2009

Getting to know you.
Steve Kuhar and myself had a meeting with Robert Mayer, Operations Manager and Sandee Daniels, Volunteer Coordinator to begin a dialog between the mountain bike community and the new management at the park. During this meeting, Steve and I did a lot of talking, Robert and Sandee took a lot of notes. This meeting was not to make decisions but to begin a dialog with the mountain bike community as one of the many park user groups. We discussed many issues as the following paragraphs illustrate. Two things give me a positive feeling about the meeting. The first is that what was to be a one hour meeting turned into a two hour meeting. The second is that the words "no, we will not consider that" were never used. This management is coming in with a clean slate and is willing to look into change.

Who is MSTA?
The first question Robert asked was about MSTA. How long we have been around? How many members do we have? What other locations do we maintain? We went over our beginnings in 1996 when the natural use rules changed and how that change came about. We discussed the other questions and used the examples of Herb Parsons Lake and Nesbit Park as other well known locations we work with the management. Robert said that he plans to listen to and work with all park user groups. Robert stated that although some groups are larger or better organized than others, that he will not do anything that would give the impression that he is "in anyone's pocket." The park is willing to work with us, but we have to be willing to work with the park also.

An early discussion topic was the recent and past bulldozer activity. Robert thanked us for our vigilance and willingness to report activity that is damaging to the park. The park did investigate the recent activity in the north end of the park. Chief Ranger Brian Wylie and another ranger hiked out the railroad track on Monday Jan. 5, to investigate. They met some young people on 4-wheelers, one of which was Richard Pierce' son. The property owner, Richard Pierce, then was called and came to the park to meet with Robert Mayer. All of the activity was taking place on the tract of private property. Mr. Pierce told Robert that the culvert was temporary and will be removed in the near future. Robert did not get a specific date, but said he would wait about 30 days and ask about the time to removal. Robert did tell Mr. Pierce that even though the activities on his property is legal, that it would influence others who do not know the property limits to go farther than they should. At the end of the discussion, I pulled out a page of pictures from the Southern Mudslingers web site of the 4-wheelers mudding in the Covington Pike area. My comment was that we did not want to see this happen in the park. Robert doesn't either. The park is going to place a sign at the boundary indicating the transition from park property to private property. Mr. Pierce has no problems with bikes and other trail users crossing his property. Please just be respectful.

Equestrian use
We discussed the issues and animosity involving horse use on the trails and the ways other parks deal with this issue. Some have parallel double track trails that separate human powered and animal powered recreation. Others with hard ground and a lot of trails (like Tsali) use alternate days. We agreed that the solution depends on the space available, the number / length of trails, and soil surface. Places like Tsali where the ground is hard and rocky, the horses don't make a dent in the surface. Our soft ground here is a quite different situation. I stated that there is not a call to throw the horses out, but to really look at the situation and make some adjustments in the accommodations. This issue will be discussed more in the future. Robert did tell us that due to the reaction to the equestrian event in the rain in 2008, the Equestrian Alliance would not do the event in 2009. They will plan for a 2010 event after some discussion of the trail issues and mitigation of trail damage.

Natural Area
For once we have a park manager who is at least willing to discuss possible use changes in the LBSNA. Robert was quite interested in the history of the natural area, so I gave a synopsis from formation to the present. This included that the natural area was formed in 1988 explicitly to block and control road construction in the park. The original park superintendent, Tommy Hill, ran the park on the theory that a public park should be in business to say yes as much as possible. Under his administration the trails in the natural area stayed open for all users. When Tommy retired and Tim Martin was interim superintendent, the anti everything people forced the issue and the green unsure new manager caved in. I related the experience we went through in 2004, when the survey and boundary update was done. I told Robert how I thought the old Memphis money worked to defeat the 150 foot setback that would have taken the yellow trail out of the natural area. I also told Robert about some of the private information I received from Steve Satterfield on the matter. I told Robert I had reviewed the management rules and found what I see as flexibility no previous management would even discuss. I sent this information to Laura Adams some time ago and that I would copy him on this. Robert's thoughts are that the best way to approach this is to maintain and manage the trails outside the natural area to a high standard. Then there is a basis to say, look at what we have done outside the NA, we can manage the trails inside to the same standard with the same uses. Don't expect change overnight. The bright spot for me is that we no longer are facing the stone wall against even discussing change we faced in the past.

Trail crew and trail maintenance
The park is going to need volunteers for many jobs for a long time, probably forever. Robert did express his appreciation for all the work done in the park by volunteers past and present. He stated he knew previous management did not express any thanks to volunteers and that sometimes discouraged volunteerism at the park. That said, there is a need for the park to have some structure in the volunteers for safety and public accountability reasons. Robert said he needs to know who is doing what, where, and when. He said he would try to join in on some of our workdays. The Equestrian Alliance has reduced their involvement in trail maintenance and my previous co-chair person, Peggy Hart, wants to take a back seat and rest for a while. To that end, Robert asked me to stay on as the chairman of the Trail Crew in whatever form it ends up in. I agreed to stay on in that capacity to help the park. I also told Robert I want him to know when we are working in the park. If some do-gooder asks him to throw out those useless, worthless, pain in the ass mountain bikers he can relate how much we help the park and ask "what have you and your organization done to help the park?"

Several things came up during our discussion that I have not included in the other paragraphs. Somewhere in the natural area discussion I mentioned I went to the Tennessee Mountain Bike Summit. First thing Robert said was the park should have had a representative there. Also, when is the next one?

I also mentioned I had talked to the state park trail coordinator, Gary Patterson, while at the summit. We talked about the natural area a little and Gary said that since it is county owned, there might be a little more flexibility than with state owned property.

The park wants to restart the Mounted Ranger program as it existed under Tim Martin. Basically a group of volunteers who can patrol the park to meet and assist park visitors or help with large events. Robert was a little surprised to find out I am a ranger since 1997 and patrolled / worked events on mountain bike. We discussed the IMBA National Mountain Bike Patrol program and it's creed of Assist, Educate, and Inform. Unfortunately I had to admit that MSTA has attempted to start a patrol but we lack someone to take a leadership position to get a patrol organized and operating.

The last word
Robert stated that the park needs to know what the users need and would like to see in the park. There is a master plan, but it is a flexible document. Nothing is yet under construction and now is the time for the user groups to speak up so their suggestions can be considered for the future of the park. The plan can be changed now. Once things are being built, it's too late for changes.

MSTA represents off road cycling as a healthy and responsible outdoor activity which is within the ability of people of all ages.

MSTA partners with land managers to assist in creating, maintaining, improving, and expanding multi-use natural surface trails under their jurisdiction.

MSTA has a working relationship with
Shelby Farms Park Conservancy,
Bartlett Parks Department (Nesbit Park),
TWRA Herb Parsons Lake,
City of Lakeland (Harvester Managerial Park), and
Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park.

Our Mission

10 years. That’s right, 10 years. By the end of 2013, Mid-South Trails Association will celebrate 10 years of operation in our second go around. Many mountain bike clubs don’t last long enough to celebrate 10 years. Yet MSTA is going strong and still growing.

I remember our first attempt at getting the off road cycling community organized. When we went to the Shelby Farms Management Board meetings and stated that we mountain bikers were doing all the trail maintenance, we were met with disbelief and denial. That’s ridiculous! It can’t be you; we have never seen you or heard from you before. Oh how that has changed!

All of the public land managers in the area now know MSTA and appreciate the trail maintenance done by off road cyclists. The Shelby Farms Park Conservancy is allowing bicycle use on the trails in the Lucius Burch State Natural Area in spite of the existing official use policy. We amazed the manager of Herb Parsons Lake by clearing the trails of devastating tornado damage. A Bartlett Parks Department board member wrote to MSTA stating that “continued mountain bike use at Nesbit Park is essential.” The City of Lakeland contacted MSTA when they wanted to include off road cycling in their first city sponsored outdoors festival. Our North Mississippi members have converted the previously underutilized Arkabutla Bayou Point Recreation Area into a mountain biking hot spot. The entrance sign now sports a cycling icon and trail use by bicycles has been expanded to the previously off limits horse trails. Together we have grown Mid-South Trails Association and shown the local land managers off road cyclists are more than willing to work for our trail access. We are now seen as providing an essential service they do not want to do without. Life is good!

Thanks to all of our members who are willing to put some of that hard earned money behind MSTA's efforts in off road cycling advocacy. These funds provide the means to operate MSTA and to pay for materials we use to build bridges, etc. We also can rent machinery when needed for much larger jobs. Without you MSTA would not exist.

Thanks to everyone, members and non-members, who show up for the hard but rewarding experience of trail maintenance. Everyone who participates gets a satisfying feeling knowing that a trail that was littered with fallen trees and other debris is open again for riding or other activities. This also shows land managers how much work we are willing to give to support our chosen sport. When later passing by some of those places you can proudly think, "I helped clear that tree."

10 Years of MSTA

In March of 2014 MSTA had a representative attend the Southern Mountain Bike Summit. The summit was sponsored by IMBA and SORBA. A lot of good information was learned at the summit. Click here to see the page with the complete summit report.

During 2014 and early 2015 Mid-South Trails Association reorganized to better serve the mountain bike community into the future. In 2014 MSTA registered with the state of Tennessee as a non-profit public benefit corporation. We formed an initial Board of Directors and established officers. That group completed all the requirements of forming this corporation.

In 2015 the process continued with application to the IRS for 501(c)(3) recognition. MSTA received our Letter of Determination in March which makes it official. Donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.

In October 2018, a new management team headed by long time Memphis cyclist Tulio Bertorini was elected to manage MSTA. This brought a fresh new approach to MSTA's activities. A major development is the addition of mountain biking facilities at Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park.