By STEVE DYE
Eight a.m. on Saturday morning, with the thermometer barely climbing into single digits, members of the Ponca City Mountain Bike Society meet lake side to continue their work on the expansion of the Lake Ponca mountain bike trail system.
Through cold, through wet, through… well, you get the idea.
Locals Casey Anderson, Chad VanHousen, Allen Green, Brandon Hatchett, Steve Bookout, Clint Locke, Aaron Reynolds, and Roy Pemberton were joined by Chris Southern of Norman along with Phillip Isaac and Tegan Malone of Oklahoma City as the day broke cold and gray, warmed only by the driving community effort that saw the installation of a seven-mile-plus trail section in just two years on a previously unused and overgrown area just off of Snake Road.
Not to discount the cumulative effect of copious cups of steaming hot coffee followed by several hours of hard work.
“Hey, chopping down limbs and clearing more trail is a better than average way to beat the cold,” Pemberton allowed. “If you think it’s too cold don’t worry, we will have sweating within 30 minutes.
The group is just entering their third year of trail development, with the now burgeoning trail system originally approved by Ponca City’s Parks and Recreation in January of 2015 and the first clearing work beginning the following month.
Jump cut to two years and hundreds of hours of volunteer work later, the area has become a popular destination for mountain bikers from around the state and beyond.
Saturday’s mission was the development of another loop on the north end of the course.
In late August of last year the first ever mountain bike race was held on the shores of Lake Ponca, with the inaugural “Boulder Bash” event drawing hundreds of racers along with friends and family to the area.
Turnout for the Oklahoma Earthbike Fellowship sanctioned race exceeded all expectations despite the event having to be rescheduled from an earlier date to the blazing hot summer.
Community support was strong, with dozens of volunteers manning rest stops along with tens of Ponca City Police Department officers, Fire Department personnel, and emergency medical crews making sure competitors and spectators alike stayed safe.
“We were super happy with how it all came together and then turned out,” Pemberton says. “It really made all the work we’ve done out here seem that much more worthwhile. It’s a great community, mountain bikers, and we couldn’t be more pleased to have so many of them come to our community of Ponca City and see what we have to offer.”
Although the chilly climate on Saturday made that hot August day seem a distant memory, preparation doesn’t wait for a change of weather.
“We’re definitely planning on doing it again, and as we draw people to Ponca City — either for a race or just to ride — we want to continue to impress them with what we have to offer,” Pemberton says. “It’s been a lot of work, and will continue to be, but where there used to be trash and old furniture littered through these woods, now we’ve got people pedaling through a beautiful area.”