Work day helps make MERA a 'Disneyland for mountain biking'

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May 24—UNION COUNTY — The threat of rain Saturday, May 22, did not douse the volunteer spirit burning within local mountain bikers.

The Blue Mountain Singletrack Trails Club's annual Mount Emily Recreation Area Work Day drew about 30 people.

"It was one of the biggest turnouts we've had," said Sean Chambers, Union County's parks director.

The National Weather Service forecast rain for the day, and some fell as the work started at 8:30 a.m. but it did not appear to cause anyone to leave.

"These are real die-hards," Chambers said late in the afternoon after a day in which rainfall at MERA was far less than what some expected.

The volunteers, many of whom were members of the trails club, focused much of their efforts on the Skills Development Center at MERA, which is adjacent to its Owsley parking lot. The skills center is where mountain bikers prepare themselves to take on the challenges of MERA's trails.

The work included adding about 60 feet to the skill center's network of "skinnies." A skinny is a narrow pathway mountain bikers ride on to improve bike handling skills and balance. Skinnies often are made of lumber or a fallen tree.

The skinnies installed May 22, which are made from split trees, will help riders learn to handle the 8- to 12-inch-wide passages they will encounter at MERA, said Ed Mosiman, a member of the club who helped run the work day.

The club also added a new drop site at the center using a plank that drops riders 1 to 2 feet. The drop sites simulate some of the drops riders have to make while riding trails at MERA.

The crew also prepared for the construction of a new MERA bridge for hikers and mountain bikes. The new bridge will cross a stream on the MERA Loop trail. It will be wider than the bridge now at the site, making it safer to ride over, Chambers said.

Materials for the bridge, some of which the Union County Public Works Department donated, were driven within 100 yards of where the new span will be. Volunteers then carried the items to the work site, Mosiman said. A trails club member later will build the bridge.

The improved bridge will enhance a network of hiking and mountain biking trails at MERA that are hard to top, according to Jonah Lindeman, who assisted with the work day.

"You can't find places like this everywhere. It is a gem," Lindeman said.

Jeff Crews of La Grande, who also served as a volunteer at the work day, agreed that the quality of the MERA's trails are exceptional.

"This is like Disneyland for mountain biking," Crews said.

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