Flow riding

Banked curves on the new Flow Trail at the Gladwin County Recreation Area.

Gladwin

Thanks to the Central Michigan Mountain Biking Association (CMMBA) and the Seebeck Family Fund cyclist in Gladwin County have a new and exciting option. One of the trails at the Gladwin County Recreation Area has been modified to include some banked curves, rollers and a jump.

“When the first trails were developed at the Recreation Area about 15 years ago they were set up as a technical single track,” said park manager Rick Seebeck. ”We maintain about nine miles of trail at the area.” He went on to say that mountain biking has “evolved” since then. Riders prefer more variety and have migrated toward a style, which is now called flow riding.

Flow riders take advantage of the terrain and gravity to carry more speed on a trail that does not require as much technical riding as the older style course. Listening to Seebeck describe the difference it seemed analogous to the difference between a downhill and slalom ski race.

The new section of trail is about a half mile long and is connected to less technical section of the existing trail system that already had many of the attributes of a flow trail making the flow trail about five miles long. The other four miles of technical trail will also continue to be maintained.

The collaboration between the Seebeck Family Fund and the CMMBA is one that will benefit both part parties. Partnering with the Association on the new trail will help raise the profile of the park and should attract more visitors to Gladwin County. The new flow course, which is unique to the area, gives the Association a local venue for that style of riding.

It cost about $10,000 to fund the construction, which also required about 300 hours of work. The CMMBA provided the design expertise and labor. The Midland Mountain Biking Crew also participated in the construction. The Crew is a youth organization that works to get kids involved in mountain biking. They plan to hold events at the Recreation Area.

Building a bike trail on forested, hilly terrain is a complicated undertaking. “You can’t just cut a trail through the woods,” said Seebeck. Multiple considerations come into play when designing a trail with erosion prevention probably the most important. “The nice ting about our course is that we did it without disrupting the woods to much,” continued Seebeck.

Seebeck also explained that there is a formula that is used in the design process. “Anytime you go up a grade of more than 10 percent for more than 20 feet you have to do something to control the water.” There are multiple spots on the track where water is diverted and sumps were dug. A sump is an area that either absorbs the excess water or moves it to a drainage ditch. He also mentioned that vandalism is the biggest problem that a mountain bike trail faces. A motorcycle or ATV can do thousands of dollars worth of damage in just minutes if they are ridden on the course.

Additional upgrades are being scheduled for elsewhere in the trail system. There are multiple wooden bridges that transect low/wet spots, which are in need of repair. Ray’s Bike Shop in Midland is providing the wood to rebuild those bridges. That work is forthcoming. 

Another new type of bike trail will be available this winter. Seebeck now has the ability to groom a twelve-foot wide path on the existing cross-country ski trail, which will allow fat tire bikers and cross country skiers to use the trail simultaneously.

The Cedar River also continues to be cleared from the park to Wiggins Lake with plans to possibly provide self-serve kayak rentals in the near future. 

Several other needed improvements are either completed of ongoing. The lodge had significant work recently. Central air conditioning was added and rotted logs replaced. The funds for the air conditioning came through a grant from the Gladwin Community Foundation and the Seebeck Family Fund. Each entity provided half of the needed capital. The log restoration came courtesy of the Seebeck Family Fund.

Prior to the COVID 19 pandemic the lodge was rented about 20 times a year, which was sufficient to handle the normal repairs and maintenance for the park. After two years without rental revenue the fund balance has been depleted forcing a search for outside money. Seebeck hopes to work with the county to secure American Rescue Plan Act funds (ARPA) to support the maintenance efforts. The Seebeck Family Fund is a 501c 3-entity making donations tax deductible. Those who would like to help preserve and maintain the park can make donations to the Seebeck Family Fund at 4767 Sylvan Grove Dr., Gladwin MI. 48624.

If the money becomes available Seebeck hopes to buy a new side-by-side and tractor, both will allow them to save significant money by doing the road, parking lot, ski grooming and trail maintenance in house.

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