Mountain Biking Parker Colorado – Keith Thompson, who helped build a new mountain bike trail at Pulpit Rock last week, shows off his favorite and most difficult section, called “The Falls.” Climbers must go around the corner, around the oak roots and manage the rock section without falling over the edge of the climb.
A new mountain bike trail called Black Sheep runs along the south side of Pulpit Rock with views of Pikes Peak.
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New signs mark the end of the Black Sheep Trail at Pulpit Rock on Wednesday, February 1, 2023. (Parker Sebold, The)
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Tracks from the bike can be seen in 2023 with less snow. Wednesday, February 1, at Black Sheep Trail. A new mountain bike trail is on the south side of Pulpit Rock, making it a quick drying trail. (Parker Sebold, The)
As part of the construction process, sections of the Black Sheep Trail that were prone to erosion were constructed with rocks, netting, and straw shown here to reduce erosion. (Parker Sebold, The)
Kate Thompson runs a section of the Black Sheep Trail that crosses the rocky plateau below Pulpit Rock, Wednesday, March 23, 2023. (Parker Sebold, The)
Ranger Mark Tatro meets with volunteers on a day of digging what has become the bike-only Black Sheep Trail in Austin Bluffs Open Space. Photo by Keith Thompson
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A new mountain bike trail in Colorado Springs has cyclists excited about an experience they’ve seen missing from city parks, and excited about what it means for future projects.
Under the supervision of city staff, volunteers are building a bike-only path along the lower face of Pulpit Rock, as part of a broader, ongoing network created several years ago in the Austin Bluffs Open Space Master Plan.
Although short, dropping about 200 feet in a quarter of a mile, this trail is important in its purpose. It connects a short list of single-track bike paths to the city’s parking lot; Chutes was the first in 2019.
A new mountain bike trail called Black Sheep runs along the south side of Pulpit Rock with views of Pikes Peak. Parker Sebold
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“It really explodes right off the stage,” said Gabe Alvarado, who helped assemble more than 50 people for the construction, which required 300 assembly hours, according to the city.
The track is called Black Sheep. This is a testament to the quality of this double diamond and the area’s pastoral history. It’s also a haven for “rogue” riders, riders who have taken the track building into their own hands against city regulations.
Alvarado has been one of the Parks Department’s critics of mountain biking in his city. Tensions have arisen over how some machines are built while others are expanded or closed.
“The general consensus I’m hearing is that things are being taken by force and a lot of roads are broken up and taken out,” Alvarado said.
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Land managers have said their goal is to reduce erosion while providing affordable options that appeal to a base of more technical, challenging riders. Without providing these opportunities, however, supporters argue that riders will continue to create them.
Kate Thompson runs a section of the Black Sheep Trail that crosses the rocky plateau below Pulpit Rock, Wednesday, March 23, 2023. (Parker Seybold, The) Parker Seybold
“We can’t just (mountain bike, just downhill), but we have to have it,” said Corey Sotila with Madisonville Trail Advocates.
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Enter the Black Sheep lane, which is expected to be “cleaned up” and joined by other lanes this spring. It was written by David Dietmeier, an eminent landscape architect for city parks.
The volunteer structure “helps build trust between the two sides,” Dittmeier said, adding that he hopes to have “a really good conversation and a respectful conversation and move forward on that.”
That’s also the hope of Keith Thompson, who helped lead the effort at Pulpit Rock. He and Alvarado said they want to form a group to focus on similar efforts at other parks and open spaces.
The interest has a personal and professional connection for Thompson. Mountain biker and Neighborhood Empowerment Officer at Neighborhood and Community Council. Thompson said its mission is “to help residents solve urban issues.”
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“Residents get frustrated when they feel like no progress is being made, but sometimes the disengagement is actually a willingness to participate,” he said. “So, yeah, I felt very depressed in the mountain biking scene. That’s why I wanted to create (Black Sheep Trail) a community effort to help change that feeling.”
Volunteers move rocks while building a single-track mountain bike trail near Pulpit Rock in Colorado Springs. Photo by Keith Thompson
Sex Medicine has long partnered with the city in the same buildings. How Thompson’s brain fits into the wheel of medicine “is something that will be determined over time,” he said. “Our hope is to really continue to keep riding on the road and increase access and give people more choice. If we can put that together, great.”
Stella praised Black Sheep’s move, while stressing that the construction was “a step in the normal process of building a new path.” It starts with the city’s master plan meetings for parks, he said.
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Alvarado saw these plans unfold. “But there seems to be a lack of consistency in what is required and what is delivered,” he said.
Thompson said he sees “showing up at meetings and having enemies” as a failed strategy. “If cyclists want results to go their way, it starts with building cooperation, trust and fairness,” he said. “But we need the same commitment to build trust in the city.”
Sotella said upcoming negotiations on Bloggett’s revised open space plan present another opportunity. The 2020 addition of 150 acres of open space, called the Pikeview Frontage, has been the subject of controversy.
“If we can expand the community of people or get involved in this program, it will be a big step for mountain biking,” Sotila said.
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Seth is a columnist covering the outdoors and the people and places that make Colorado colorful.
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Here is a list of upcoming GVC chapter events. To see everything we have planned, click here for our event calendar with events in all four seasons.
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