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.
Who is MSTA?
Trail crew and trail maintenance
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
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
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, which serves now, 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.