Volunteers ready Mirror Lake singletrack for summer grand opening

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 - 15:53
  • Eagle River resident Clark Saunders clears trees along a new singletrack bike course at Mirror Lake May 20, 2017. Dozens of volunteers have donated hundreds of hours of work to complete the new trail, which is expected to open later this summer. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)
  • Chugiak resident Will Taygan installs a sign during a work party for a new Mirror Lake singletrack bike course May 20, 2017. Built with hundreds of hours of volunteer labor, the new trail system is expected to open later in the summer. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)
  • A sign announcing a new singletrack bike course at Mirror Lake May 20, 2017. Dozens of local volunteers have donated hundreds of hours of work to cut about two-and-a-half miles of new trail around the lake. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)
  • Eagle River resident Clark Saunders clears trees along a new singletrack bike course at Mirror Lake May 20, 2017. Dozens of volunteers have donated hundreds of hours of work to complete the new trail, which is expected to open later this summer. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)
  • A sign announcing a new singletrack bike course at Mirror Lake May 20, 2017. The trail, expected to open later this summer, has been years in the making. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)

After years of planning and preparation and more than 1,000 volunteer hours, Mirror Lake’s new mountain bike singletrack is almost ready to ride.

It’s the first trail of its kind in Chugiak-Eagle River.

The course follows a winding three-mile path through the woods between Mirror and Edmonds Lake and includes two-and-a-half miles of narrow new singletrack connected by wider segments of old multiuse trail. Pending the results of a final inspection by the Municipality of Anchorage, it’s expected to open in June.

On May 20, the weekend before the inspection, a small group of local volunteers met at the lake for some final trail work.

“It’s amazing to see the difference,” said Eagle River resident Clark Saunders, heading into the woods Saturday afternoon.

Over the course of nearly two dozen weekend work parties, volunteers have cleared brush, removed roots and rocks, tamped down the tread and smoothed out the backslope. Last year, crews cut the initial trail and cleared branches from the line of site. This year, volunteers are installing signposts.

Saunders, armed with a chainsaw and other tools, was tasked with removing some of the final hazards along the trail.

On his cell phone, he keeps a series of photographs of dying trees leaning dangerously close to the trail. His job: Find those trees and cut them down.

“I kind of have a reputation as the destroyer,” he said, laughing.

He spotted the first leaning trunk propped loosely at an angle over a switchback in the trail. Revving the chainsaw, he pressed the blades into the bark. Wood chips sprayed into the air, and the tree fell with a whoosh into the brush between the trails. No further clearing necessary.

“It doesn’t always work out that nice,” Saunders said. “But you hope it does.”

The new singletrack is the work of a small army of volunteers and donors, according to Will Taygan of Chugach Mountain Bike Riders (CMBR), which was formed specifically to support the project.

The nonprofit Alaska Trails secured the $50,000 federal grant for the project, then loaned a tool trailer for volunteers to use along the trail. Contractor Ptarmigan Ptrails completed the design and machine work.

Since work began last summer, the volunteer effort has attracted everyone from local cyclists to church groups and scout troops. Somewhere around 150 people have donated time or money to the effort, Taygan said.

The weekend work parties usually average around 15-20 people, according to Saunders. Saturday’s group was smaller, with about half-a-dozen volunteers.

The next work party is scheduled to take place on June 10 at Mirror Lake, Taygan said. On June 6 at 7 p.m. at the same location, CMBR plans to host a signup for a weekly summer youth camp. The camp is still looking for coaches, too, Taygan said. It’s a community endeavor.

Just like the new singletrack itself.

“It doesn’t happen without community support,” Taygan said.

Learn more about the Chugach Mountain Bike Riders and upcoming events at www.cmbralaska.org or find the group on Facebook.

Contact reporter Kirsten Swann at [email protected]

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