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Mid-South Trails Association provides Shelby Farms Park with hundreds of volunteer service hours each year and is a huge advocate for biking and our community as a whole.

arrow This project was nominated for a Community Service Award as part of the 2010 National Trails Awards, announced at the 20th National Trails Symposium in Chatanooga, TN.

 

Mid-South Trails Association promotes volunteerism

 

The Mid-South Trails Association (MSTA) was formed by concerned mountain bikers in the summer of 1996 after Shelby Farms Park banned mountain bikes from the trails along the Wolf River. Many of them attended Shelby Farms Board meetings and conversed with then Shelby County Park Superintendent Tim Martin and board members in an attempt to reverse this change.

photo of trail workers

Mid-South Trails Association volunteers

Through these meetings MSTA members met Larry Smith, who at the time was Executive Director of the Wolf River Conservancy. Larry already had a planned route for a new trail segment to go around the Lucius Burch Natural Area between Walnut Grove Road and Germantown Parkway.

In September 1996, the new trail was mapped out by a hiking expedition, and then cut by a crew of about 20 people. The White Trail (first named Rainbow Trail) became a reality. This moderately challenging trail is an established part of the park, and is used by many mountain bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. In 2008, the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy was issued a conservation easement and took control of the Park from the Shelby County Government.

The Shelby Farms Park Conservancy is a nonprofit organization charged with stewarding a master planning process for Shelby Farms and for day-to-day operations of Shelby Farms Park, one of the largest urban parks in the United States at 4,500 acres. The vision of the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy is to give rise to a celebrated 21st century park that defines and shapes a great city. As a nonprofit with fewer than twenty employees including rangers, we rely heavily on volunteers for help with special events, trail work, and many other aspects of our park operations.

Mid-South Trails Association (MSTA) exemplifies the definition of volunteerism. With approximately one hundred members, they are an active trail crew for at least three area parks: Shelby Farms Park, Nesbitt Park, and Herb Parsons State Park. They provide bike patrols for each of these facilities, and their members personally paid for their own bike repair, CPR, and first aid training in order to get the program running. During events, they are actively patrolling and providing first aid and information about trail etiquette.

photo of big group of young people

Participants in the Mid-South Trails Association Bike Give-away

MSTA consistently assists us as event volunteers. In 2009, we revitalized our holiday light show, Starry Nights, after a ten year hiatus. Each night required up to fifteen volunteers in order to run the event. Two weeks into the program, a large corporate volunteer group pulled out at the last minute. I contacted Brad Corey, and Mid-South Trails Association immediately pulled together fifteen enthusiastic members who came out in twenty degree weather to take tickets, direct traffic, make hot cocoa and work in the gift shop. Their members braved the cold and moved approximately seven hundred vehicles through our show that night.

Each year, we host a holiday bike give away in cooperation with Revolutions Community Bike Shop. This program takes in old bikes and with a lot of help from volunteers, completely refurbishes them and gives them to deserving children in the Memphis area. Mid-South Trails Association participates at the giveaway by conducting a mountain bike safety course and helps ensure the kids are familiarized with their new bikes and encourages their continued interest in biking and health.

Shelby Farms Park hosts the largest Earth Day festival in our region. The annual Down to Earth Festival includes a children’s area, green vendors and sustainable organizations, and demonstrations and information from our Parks and Recreation Committee member groups, one of which is Mid-South Trails Association. Each year, we can depend on them to provide information to our visitors about mountain biking as a sport, as a community, trail maintenance, and trail etiquette. They are an active member of our Parks and Recreation Committee and attend monthly meetings to stay informed of activities in our area as they relate to our trail systems and our community.

In addition to all of these things, MSTA is the main source of organized trail work on our entire twenty-five mile system. As frequently happens during the spring months in Memphis, we have numerous storms which erode our trails and down trees. Mid-South Trails never hesitates to scout the trails after storms for immediate needs. Following each such event in our area, the group members jump onto their online forum and begin making trail reports for each of the parks they serve. Brad Corey organizes the group into teams as the priorities are determined and they are never more than a weekend from clearing trees, brush, and other hazards. We simply could not do this without them! They are highly skilled trail workers and are knowledgeable about water flow, surfacing materials, bridge conditions and other structures, and in the use of any innumerable number of tools and equipment.

They have been pivotal in designing, revising and providing CAD services for a standard set of bridge plans that we can utilize for any length structure. Prior to this, our bridges have been built in various widths, rail styles, tread separation, and in varying degrees of structural soundness but thanks to their vision and dedication, we now have a standard which can be used not only by Mid-South Trails Association but by the numerous Eagle Scouts who have expressed an interest in these projects. They are not only successful bridge builders but recently rallied around an Eagle Scout candidate and gave of their own personal desire to help him raise funds to rebuild a hazardous bridge on our system.

The group has recently formed a partnership with the Corps of Engineers at Arkabutla Lake in Northern Mississippi and has developed over four miles of trails for mountain bike use. This relationship continues along with those at Bartlett Nesbitt Parks, Herb Parsons Park, the International Mountain Biking Association, the Greater Memphis Greenline, and the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, where Mid-South Trails Association continues to help raise money, support trail advocacy and etiquette, and work on trails. They are also actively promoting the creation of a “Share the Road” license plates for Tennesseans.

 

For more information:

Website for Mid-South Trails Association: www.midsouthtrails.com/

 

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