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Building trails, building community. Photo: Erie Singletrack Facebook Page

It’s 2:45pm on a sun-soaked Saturday afternoon when Maps tells us we’ve arrived at our destination.

“Are we here?” Juliette, my wife, asks. “Is this it?”

I look around and then again at my phone. And again.

We’re at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac in the town of Erie, Colorado. 15 miles to the west, Boulder’s Flatirons and the cragged Front Range. To the east, the long, slow descent to the Nebraska state line and the Great Plains. It’s one of the last places I’d expect to find great mountain biking.

“I think so?” I said.

Juliette changes in the car as I jog over to the trailhead to check the map posted there. When I return, she’s dressed and eager to get moving.

“It looks like it’s split in two. This is Sunset West, and there are a few loops here, but if we climb over that hill, we’ll get to Sunset East, which looks like it could be fun.”

She’s up for anything, so we start pedaling, climbing up and over the hillside singletrack of Sunset West. At its crest, we’re met by a gravel road, which climbs for roughly another quarter mile to the Sunset East trailhead.

As we approach, we can make out a parking lot—full—with at least half a dozen people at the trailhead, talking and laughing as they wait their turns to drop in.

At this point, two things become clear:

  • We parked in the wrong place.
  • We are about to have a lot more fun than we ever could’ve guessed.

And we did. So much fun, in fact, that months later I reached out to Adam Haid to hear how it all began. He’s the founder of Erie Singletrack Advocates (ESA) and the man who got the wheel rolling.

The Birth of Erie Singletrack

Jump Jam 2017 at Erie Singletrack. Photo: Facebook

As surprising as it is to find such awesome singletrack nestled between sub-divisions in a small town, the birth of Erie Singletrack is even more unexpected.

Over coffee, Adam tells me he was on a walk with his wife and dogs when he noticed the undulation of the open space near his home. It was choice terrain for a mountain bike park. So he began building one, starting with a few sessionable features.

“It turns out that’s illegal,” he says with a laugh.

One of the homeowners in the adjacent subdivision called the cops, who confirmed that yes, it is illegal to build on public lands without permission. But they also gave him information on who to talk to if he wanted to keep his project going—legally.

So he showed up to the Open Space & Trails Advisory Board meeting with a Google map with some lines drawn on it. To his delight, the board gave Adam their blessing, and it was time to bring the project to fruition—save for one small detail:

“I didn’t know anything about building trails,” he admits, “but I wanted to.”

What happened next was the kind of cosmic kismet you might expect in a movie about an unlikely dream come true.

Boulder Mountainbike Alliance (BMA) reached out to Adam to ask how they could help.

The partnership was pivotal. In addition to providing ESA a way of accepting and banking donations, BMA put Adam in touch with a few of the builders behind Boulder’s beautiful Valmont Bike Park. They would help plan and ultimately break ground in Erie.

About the same time, Jill Wait, then-Director of Erie Parks & Recreation and one of the project’s loudest advocates, pointed Adam toward a resource grant being offered by Xcel Energy. Through it, the utility was helping to organize volunteers for worthy causes.

To Adam’s surprise, the Erie Singletrack project was chosen, and on September 7th, 2013, more than 150 volunteers showed up to help bring Sunset West to life. In one day, they built roughly two miles of trail. Over the next several months, Adam continued to manage the community of volunteers, who made quick work of the remaining trail. By the year’s end, Sunset West was complete.

Xcel Energy Day of Service Trail Build. Photo: Facebook

But that was only half his dream.

“Sunset West was designed to be a place for everybody to have fun and enjoy the outdoors from mountain bikers to runners to dog walkers,” says Adam. “But our goal for Sunset East was to build a biking playground. It’s a place for riders of all levels to push their limits. A place to learn how the bike feels as it moves beneath them.”

Again, the community stepped up to make it a reality—not only with man (and woman) hours, but with money, too. With donations from the community—in Erie, and of mountain bikers across the Front Range—ESA hired Tony Boone Trails, a builder out of Salida, CO, and Castle Rock-based STM Trailbuilding, to carve out and refine a few progressive flow trails: the Green, Blue, and Black Lines.

“The Green Line is predictable, and the Blue Line is less so, but the Black Line is all about getting air,” says Adam. “Each one builds confidence as you prepare for the next.”

His passion for the project is palpable. Several times throughout our conversation, Adam pauses mid-thought to tell me, “Just stop me if I’m rambling or if I’m giving you more information than you need. I could talk about these trails for hours.”

When I ask him whether he encountered any unexpected challenges along the way, he laughs again.

“No.”

And whether he thought any of it would be more difficult than it was?

“All of it.”

With passion, determination, the right partners, and a little luck, Adam and the community have created something remarkable: an amenity that simultaneously enriches the community while creating it, too.

He hopes to take the things he’s learned along the way to other communities across the Front Range to inspire similar projects there. In fact, he and a couple friends are already discussing ways to do just that. Why?

“To spread the mountain biking love and community to areas that may not know what they have. I see the happiness it brings, and I want it to continue.”

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# Comments

  • Greg Heil

    What an incredible success story! We need more open-minded land managers like this all across the nation.

  • John Fisch

    Hey, I’ve ridden there! It was a quick stop when passing through and seemed at first like a waste of time given the uninspiring looking terrain from the road. But once on trail, I was pleasantly surprised. Somebody did a great job eking out every bit of available fun from a rather nondescript (especially by Colorado standards) piece of prairie.

    Thanks for giving us the backstory!

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