If you’ve ever mountain biked or hiked at Saunders Springs Nature Preserve, then you’ve spent time on trails built by a 1st Theater Sustainment Command civilian employee and veteran.
Eric Schweighauser, 1st TSC safety manager, volunteers to share his passion for mountain biking with the greater Fort Knox community. From a lunchtime ride around post to weekends volunteering creating trails, biking is big part of his life.
Schweighauser has enjoyed mountain biking since he was a child. He biked throughout his life, including his 24-year Army career, but not as much as he does now. Serving in the Army took priority then. During one deployment to Afghanistan, he remembers looking up at the mountains and thinking we could bike here. Now he shares his love for mountain biking with people of all ages and skill levels.
Last year, Schweighauser became president of the 501c3 non-profit organization Kentucky Mountain Bike Association, Lincoln Trails (KyMBALT), a chapter of the International Mountain Bike Association.
KyMBALT’s focus is on trails and advocacy in Hardin and Meade Counties in Central Kentucky. This includes Brandenburg, Elizabethtown, Fort Knox, and Radcliff. The organization hosts group rides, events, and volunteers creating and maintaining trails.
An offshoot of the Kentucky Mountain Bike Association, Louisville, the Lincoln Trails group formed in 2015 to shepherd trails and grow the mountain bike community in the Lincoln Heritage region of Kentucky. Schweighauser is a founding member.
“These trails should be sustainable and maintainable,” Schweighauser said. “I look at it as though we are creating trails for our great grandchildren.”
One area trail Schweighauser and members of KyMBALT built and maintain is just outside of Fort Knox at the Saunders Springs Nature Preserve. These nine miles of trails are multi-use and can be used for mountain biking, walking, and running. Three miles of the trail offer mountain biking challenges with some steep inclines and bridges. The group also provides upkeep by clearing trails and cleaning up areas holding water to reduce erosion.
There are other veterans involved in the organization too, and they plan to make a guidon that they can post when hosting a training or group ride.
“Veterans volunteer because we see something that needs to be done, and we do it,” Schweighauser said.
According to Schweighauser, professional trail builders can charge up to $20,000 per mile. Schweighauser and KyMBALT members build and maintain mountain bike trails in the Lincoln Heritage District solely as volunteers.
KyMBALT recently received a $14,000 Paula Nye Grant from the Kentucky Bike and Bikeway Commission, which falls under the Kentucky Department of Transportation. The grant money is being used to focus on education. A portion of the funds will be used to certify 10 members through the Mountain Bike Certification Course.
“It’s a train-the-trainer course,” Schweighauser said. “We will train, facilitate, and instruct.” They should be mountain bike and first aid certified in April, and free public classes will be available this summer.
“We’re buying 10 mountain bikes,” he said. “That way bikers can learn and engage.”
The plan is to host a minimum of four biking events a year. Another portion of the money will be used to buy materials to build collapsible trail features and even rubber chickens that make noise.
“Riding over the chickens and hearing the noises helps kids build confidence,” Schweighauser said. “We want the younger generations to get involved.”
The sport is growing, and KyMBALT wants to educate people of all ages. Schweighauser and other members want to get people on bikes, and teach skills and safety.
“When COVID-19 hit, bike shops couldn’t keep bikes stocked. People were looking for ways to get outside and exercise,” Schweighauser said.
KyMBALT members also began building mountain bike trails at Buttermilk Falls in Brandenburg around the Nucor Corporation steel mill site in October 2020. Schweighauser said that the goal is to connect the trails throughout the city, so riders can stop for food or drink along their trip.
“Having Mountain bike trails and parks in the community contributes to the local economy,” Schweighauser said. People want to live where there are places to exercise and relax.
“Give mountain biking a try.” Schweighauser urged. “There are so many health benefits. It’s a great stress-relieving exercise too, because you have to focus on the trail and what’s in front of you,” he said. “It’s trail therapy.”
In addition to sharing his passion with the local community, Schweighauser will also share his love of biking with the 1st TSC. He will provide bike safety training April 2, 2021 during the 1st TSC’s safety day.