Community invited to try new biking, running trail

The (F)all Out Fun Ride (and Run) on Sunday, Oct. 30 at 11 a.m.-4 p.m. will be the first event on the full mile Rollin’ Coal trail at Diamond Creek State Recreation Area. Participants are welcome to stay all day or come for a few loops, as the event is based on time trials, said Catriona Reynolds. The event is free, though donations for continued trail building are encouraged.

Some of the funds raised will be used to create signage about trail usage and etiquette, Catriona said. An outhouse was recently built near the start of the trail, just in time for the event.

In addition to racing, there will be fire pits, a children’s skill course, and hot food and beverages. Costumes are encouraged. Prizes will be awarded for categories such as fastest mile by bike, fastest mile by foot, most loops, and fastest two miles in dual mode — biking and running.

The trail name, Rollin’ Coal, is a tongue-in-cheek play on words referring to rolling bike wheels, the coal in the bluffs and the obnoxious practice of attacking people with diesel exhaust from intentionally modified trucks, Catriona said.

“Thanks to letters of support from the City of Homer, Kachemak Nordic Ski Club, Homer Running Club, and a resolution of support from the Kenai Penninsula Borough Assembly, we’ve won support in the RTCA Rivers, Trails, Conservation Assistance Program) via National Parks. They assist with finding grants and guiding non-profits like ours to reach our goals,” said Derek Reynolds.

At least 1,500 volunteer labor hours, and 100s of imagining, design and administration hours have been devoted to creating the mile-long trail, Catriona said. Volunteers have included Homer Cycling Club board members, several Homer High students, long-time Homer residents and recent transplants from other mountain biking towns.

The journey to the current mile-long Rollin’ Coal trail started in 2012, when then-State Park Ranger Roger McCampbell was overseeing dead spruce removal at the Diamond Creek State Recreation Area, Catriona said. He requested that the workers cut swathes through the woods with their skidder that may later be used for trails.

McCampbell invited Dave Brann to check out the area to see whether it may be of interest to the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club. Meanwhile, HCC and KNSC had been in conversation about winter trail use and possibilities for snow and fat bike groomed trails that would not conflict with skier needs. Brann suggested to McCampbell that HCC might be interested in developing mountain and fat bike trails in the newly cleared spaces at Diamond Creek State Recreation Area. HCC board members, in particular Derek, were very intrigued by this possibility, Catriona said. In the following weeks HCC board members engaged in conversation, exploration and walking, and flagging the area with State Park Trails Specialist Eric Clark.

Many hours of volunteer work was invested in building about 3/4 of a mile of a demonstration mountain bike trail that zigzags on the east side and parallel to the gravel road that leads to the beach trailhead, Catriona said. Riders typically ride down the trail and then loop back up from the road. The Halloween Hustle, held in the fall of 2013, drew costumed runners and bikers from as far as Anchorage.

However, trail development went on a hiatus while a Memorandum of Understanding was drawn up between the state of Alaska and HCC, Catriona said. During that time trail maintenance and upgrading of the demonstration trail took place, and several riding sessions and low-key events were held. Local residents discovered the trail and embraced it to walk and run as well as for biking. It was also during this time when the HCC learned the trail is not appropriate for horses as they leave deep hoof prints and manure that are destructive and disruptive to the intended trail users.

Though the process of obtaining a memorandum took longer than HCC hoped, it was completed in the winter of 2015, Catriona said. With the memorandum and a designated trail budget in hand, Derek led the charge to create the first public mountain bike area in the Homer area.

“Since early 2016, almost every single Wednesday from 6-10 p.m., (Derek) has lead a work party to sculpt and refine the existing trail and to create an additional section,” Catriona said. “The result is an exactly one-mile trail that swoops and flows between trees to spectacular views of Augustine Volcano.”

HCC and State of Alaska Recreation Area welcome all human powered modes of transportation, no horses or other pack animals, and remind those on foot that these trails are built and maintained by mountain bikers and HCC, Catriona said.

Anna Frost can be reached at anna.frost@homernews.com.

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