Mike Summers, left, works alongside Ted Krempp, to form a three-quarter-mile bike trail loop around a plot of land between the Jasper softball field and the Parklands. Andy Ahner and his daughter, Mia, are pictured in the background.
By LEANN BURKE
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JASPER — For eighth-grader Henry Fromme of Ireland, mountain biking has become a passion. So much so, his father Todd Fromme said, Henry sought out a job so he can purchase the parts he needs to upgrade his bike.
“He’s just really geeked out on it,” Todd said. “If he’s on the computer, he’s looking up how to modify his bike.”
Todd describes his family as outdoorsy, and they’ve done some mountain biking in the past, but in the past few months, Henry has taken the hobby to a new level. That’s thanks to the Trail Heads of Southwest Indiana, a mountain biking club that builds trails throughout the region and teaches people how to mountain bike. The Dubois County Trail Heads club is led by Coleman Lovelace and Ethan Trusty, both of Jasper. The two men have a passion for mountain biking they are determined to share with local kids. Now, that passion is becoming tangible, as the club builds a beginning mountain bike trail on a plot of land the Greater Jasper School Corporation owns.
Lovelace and Trusty presented their plan to the Greater Jasper School Board last week, and received approval to move forward with the trail, which is planned to be about a three-quarter-mile loop around a plot of land between the Jasper softball field and the Parklands. A team of local volunteers broke ground on the trail Saturday, and have already cleared about a half mile, according to a post in the club’s Facebook group. Once complete, the trail will be the practice space for the newly formed Jasper National Interscholastic Cycling Association team — a competitive mountain biking league for high school students coached locally by Lovelace and Trusty — and open for community use.
“We just want to get kids on bikes,” Lovelace said.
Lovelace started the local movement that led to the trail now under construction after moving to Dubois County from Texas about five years ago. He owns Lovelace Family Insurance in Jasper and mountain biking is a passion. An avid mountain biker himself, he wanted a safe place locally for his children — Asher, 3, and Jadalynn, 18 months — and mountain bikers of every age to safely ride. As it is now, the closest mountain bike trails are all about an hour away.
To get it started, Lovelace built a trail in his backyard for himself and his family to use. Before long, he said, he had 10 to 15 of the neighborhood kids using it, too.
“At that point in time I knew I had something that I had to get out to the community,” he said.
Lovelace contacted Trusty, who owns REM Bicycle and Fitness in Jasper. It turned out Trusty had been thinking about how to get kids out on bikes more, too, so the two set to work. In March, they held a call out meeting for students interested in being on the Jasper NICA team. They expected a handful of kids to show up and to start the team in 2020. Instead, about a dozen kids and their parents showed up, all eager to start biking immediately. After that, Trusty and Lovelace moved the launch of Jasper NICA and the Dubois County Trail Heads group to this past summer. The Jasper NICA team will compete in its first season in 2020, which will also be the first season in the state.
“The goal is to bring state championships to Jasper,” Lovelace said. “And to keep them here.”
Beyond the high school team, Lovelace and Trusty hope to build a community of mountain bikers within Dubois County, and offer a nearby option for beginners to learn to manage the bikes, which Trusty said have thicker tires and more suspension than a road or hybrid bike.
The trail under construction now is just the first step. If everything goes according to plan, Lovelace said, he envisions a trail system throughout the city so that road bikers and mountain bikers can “walk out their front doors and get on their bikes.”
Trusty shares his vision.
“Me and my brothers and our friends, we pretty much lived on our bikes,” Trusty said. “We want to share that with the new generation.”
Lovelace, Trusty and Fromme have already met with city officials to see how to make that dream a reality, and so far, local officials have been supportive, for which Lovelace and Trusty are grateful. First, though, they have to finish the beginner trail.