Mongo up, Cannonball Down: Shepherd Mountain Bike Park is a Midwestern treasure
Opening day, yahoo! April 3, 2021, Ironton, Missouri, officially declared Shepherd Mountain Bike Park (SMBP) “Open to businesses.”
Cyclists in an area of five states rode their bikes on the Mongo loading platform for an adventurous mountain-side shuttle, stunned by the excitement of being the first to leave gnarled trails on the trails of toughest and nastiest gravity in the area.
Five purpose-built downhill trails on the scale of the single tracks normally found in the northwestern parts of the continent can now be hiked right here in the Show Me State.
Each success story has its “eureka” moment, and the SMBP arrived in June 2019, on the terrace of the Fort Davidson Café. Klinton Silvey was having lunch with members of the Ironton Chamber of Commerce. He glanced up at a forested mountain and casually contemplated how nice it would be to build downhill mountain bike trails up the steep side of the hill. A member of the trade asked if he knew anything about what it would take to build them. Silvey replied that maybe he could help them.
Might be able to help them, was a big understatement. Silvey is a member of Gateway off-road cyclists (GORC) Gravity, a 501c3 nonprofit, dedicated to the development of gravity-fed mountain bike trails and bike skill parks for families across Missouri. He shared the lunch conversation with fellow GORC Gravity members Dave Schulz and Steve Friedman. Together they presented a formal proposal to build the Shepherd Mountain Bike Park to the Iron County Economic Partnership, and as they say, “the rest is history.”
SMBP would be a great model for other communities who might consider starting a mountain bike park. Mayor Bob Lourwood, Chuck Correll (Chair of the Arcadia Valley Tourism Committee) and other community leaders recognized the park’s potential to boost the region’s economy and are committed to making the project a success. . Even before the doors opened, their efforts were paying off. The value of properties near the bike park was already on the rise, according to city officials.
With community leaders successful in raising funds, Silvey and Schulz continuing to serve as volunteer advisers, all that was needed to get the project started was finding the right construction team to implement the plan. Enter Serrated ax trail design.
In an exercise to select the appropriate company to build the trail system, GORC Gravity members listed their favorite downhill trails. When the tables were completed, it turned out that Jagged Ax had built the majority of the group’s “five fabulous trails”.
Silvey explained that everyone appreciated how Jagged Ax owner Alex Scott found a way to descend slopes that made riders feel like they were living the real mountain, without cutting a bench or altering the ride. environment. The group believed Jagged Ax could create the rough, natural, technical, and steep descents that cyclists in the region currently had to travel hundreds of miles to experience. It also contributed to the fact that in the mountain biking world, Jagged Ax was already known to give every trail a unique flavor.
With the mountain’s six hundred feet elevation, Silvey was also not interested in extending the mileage just to build flow trails. The Ozark Trail is just thirty minutes away, and with the over one hundred miles of cross-country ski trails in neighboring St. Louis, there is plenty of this style of trail available.
With all the pieces now in place, Jagged Ax set to work.
When building mountain biking trails, a common expression is that “you need a village”. The product of this village’s effort was so successful that when the crew of North America’s first enduro series, Big Mountain Enduro (BME), visited the site in the fall of 2020, they were impressed enough to make SMBP the opening race of the 2021 series on May 2. Pretty awesome, eh?
If you dig it they will roll
The online shuttle goes through the SMBP opening weekend sold out within the first sixty seconds. Those who couldn’t snag a pass to hitchhike in the back of the old Missouri National Guard 6WD Medium Tactical Vehicle, affectionately named Mongo, or on one of the trailers pulled by Humvee , were able to stretch their legs on a “warmup ride” by climbing the Coolio’s Climb for more than two miles.
On opening day, Coolio was still a work in progress and a bit chunky in places. It got easier after my first climb, as I got to grips with the difficult places; however, on my fifth trip it started to wear me down.
(Note: I’m not complaining. I appreciate the mega volunteer hours that Schulz put into building the return route. He lived on the mountain in an RV for eight months, working daily to build the more than two mile trail., applaud, ”I applaud your commitment.)
It doesn’t matter if you’ve paid cash or sweaty, all runners land on top of the mountain at The Hub, an elevated launch pad for all trails. Gathering at that perch with your cycling buds while straddling the saddle of your trusty ride, it’s decision time. Which line to take?
Will it be Trolley Track?
Don’t be fooled by the green rating. As with life in general, everything is relative. Yes, compared to the other four trails it’s easier. However, this is not the green trail your father took.
All runners will appreciate the smooth flow of this 1.7 mile run, and the naturally integrated rock arsenal is not technical enough to cause problems. However, the knot, for some, could be the high-slope earth berms. The turns are wide and smooth, but the accumulated speed of the steep descent could be a challenge for a true beginner.
Or element 26?
This 1.1 mile run raises the skill level requirements one step further. Berms are a bit tighter and speeds increase with steeper inclines. There are also additional technical requirements such as table tops and wooden elements. But overall it’s a smooth progression from Trolley Track.
The 0.7 mile course was a crowd favorite on opening day. Following the trend it is even steeper and faster than the previously listed lower rated trails. There are more rocky technical characteristics, but the gaps between the two remain pedals. It looks like black diamond tracks; however, Mineshaft is still a bit neat and doesn’t have the big jumps. Runners will find this black diamond practice trail welcome, as even mere mortals should be able to handle this trail.
Or should it be Powder Keg?
The 0.8 mile trail deserves its black diamond rating. This and Cannon Ball demonstrate Jagged Ax’s ability to “keep it natural”, allowing riders a up-close and personal experience with the real mountain. The route between features is representative of the rake and hiking trails we took in the early years of mountain biking, leaving the rocks to be where they are. This trail also has a rad wood corkscrew. Head to the off-camber rock gardens and drop near the bottom. Some riders were caught off guard on opening day.
And then there’s Cannon Ball.
You would think that a double black diamond rating would prepare runners for a race. But no, this 0.6 mile trail is super steep, up and down. Runners will lose count of the number of rock features, mandatory rock rolls, big rock falls and crazy rock gardens. This trail is stripped naturally.
As you near the end of this thrill ride, don’t do the boo boo a rider did on opening day. Mistakenly mistaking the Cannon for a swing function, she walked slowly to the end of the ramp, then out. I am happy to report that she did not suffer serious injuries.
Construction of two more trails at the back of the mountain was almost complete on opening day. These trails will be open in time to be part of the May 2 BME race. Their addition increases the total mileage of the park to around ten miles, which is well worth it.
“Knock Knock!” this is a knock on the door for an entrepreneur reading this article who is looking for a location to open a new bicycle store.
Mayor Lourwood and the community of Ironton are actively seeking funding for Phase II of the SMBP. The mayor explained how the entire SMBP project is comparable to building an amusement park. Their team decided to build the downhill trails in Phase I, like an amusement park would build a roller coaster first, to get everyone’s attention, and then follow up on the more family-friendly rides.
Phase II will include real green trails and increasingly difficult blue routes for the whole family. It will also include features tailored to the needs of cyclists who want to improve their bike handling skills.
A campground will be built for visitors looking for a true outdoor experience. Trails are planned to connect the park areas and downtown Ironton.
Visitors should begin their visit at The Wheelhouse, located in downtown Ironton, at the corner of Russell Street and Highway 21. It is the starting point for shuttle tickets, bicycle rentals and travel. ‘other information associated with the bicycle park and the surrounding area. Currently the shuttle service is limited to weekends, but they plan to operate daily during the summer months.
Beyond the bike park
If you’re looking for a break from the challenging trails of SMBP, take a day or two to check out the area’s other ATV attractions.
A short 11 mile drive through the scenic Ozark Mountains will bring you to St. Joe State Park near Farmington. The park offers eleven miles of old-school singletrack that is a flashback to the trails of the past: just a gentle, narrow trail that winds through and around trees, nothing technical and with only six hundred feet of elevation.
Or take equally scenic country roads, twenty-five miles northwest to reach another old-fashioned ATV trail at Council Bluff Lake. This twelve-mile trail circles the lake, providing stunning views of anglers who put their skills to work to attract a largemouth bass silt stored in the lake.
Cyclists can set up at the lake campground and venture out for a longer bike ride on the Ozark Trail. The Ozark Trail will eventually tie into the Ozark Highland Trail to provide seven hundred miles of continuous hiking (OHT does not allow bicycles at this time), from Arkansas Lake Fort Smith National Park to St. Louis. , Missouri.
The addition of the Shepherd Mountain Bike Park makes the Ironton area a vacation destination for the whole family.