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Good article on Black Rock today. They bring up the positive economic impacts that the area is starting to have on Falls City, not to mention giving their youth something to do.

There's a few pics on the left hand side of the page under "today's photos".

Cheers,
EBX

Riding the edge of Falls City

Friday, January 26, 2007
MATTHEW PREUSCH

FALLS CITY -- Log trucks loaded with fir trees still roll past the Boondocks Tavern on Main Street in this bucolic corner of Polk County, but inside, bright biking jerseys mix it up with the plaid shirts.

Most Oregonians probably haven't heard of the Black Rock Mountain Biking Area, but the trail system -- 1,000 acres of awesome amid the clear-cut Coast Range foothills west of Dallas -- is getting noticed by the growing and gravity-averse freeride mountain biking community.

"I've personally talked to a fellow from New York, someone from Virginia and a guy from North Carolina," said Troy Munsell, owner of Salem's Santiam Bicycles, which sponsors a local trail-building group. "And we've had a guy from Ireland come twice."

Freeriding is to traditional mountain biking what demolition derby is to bumper cars. Riders generally wear plastic body armor and full-face helmets as they tear over rough terrain and negotiate steep grades.

Once on the fringe, the sport is now a mainstream, marketable activity, and visitors are subtly transforming the small logging community of Falls City.

The Home Town Grocery now stocks Clif Bars, energy drinks and trail maps for its new clientele. "We want to get them whatever they want," said owner Nels Olsson. "The potential is so big."

Though statistics for freeriding are difficult to separate from mountain biking as a whole, freeriding generally is considered the fastest-growing sector in the sport, said Mark Eller, spokesman for the International Mountain Biking Association.

Industry estimates put the number of mountain bikers age 16 and older at 50 million in the United States.

Eller's association lists more than 100 international freeride areas on its Web site, including freeriding's epicenter, Whistler, B.C., and Hood River's Post Canyon area, but it recently gave Oregon its premier "Top Dog" ranking and singled out Black Rock for praise.

Black Rock stands out, Eller said, because of the so-far successful collaboration between riders, land managers and community members around the spot. "We've just been anxious to share this success model, mainly because there are so many places across the country that are looking for more opportunities for freeriding," he said.

Area began as rogue trails

Like many freeride and mountain bike areas, Black Rock, named after an early 20th-century logging camp, got its start as a series of rogue trails on public land.

But in 2002, two years after local riders approached the Oregon Department of Forestry with their idea for a freeride area, the agency gave permission to start building trails with added features.

"They took the bull by the horns and went to the land managers and said, 'We want this kind of riding, and we know it's something new for you, but we want to do it in a sustainable way,' " Eller said.

It worked. Last May, the local Black Rock Mountain Biking Association and state agency signed a 10-page trail management plan that details where and how volunteers will build and mark future trails and maintain current ones.

The area now boasts about 61/2 miles of trails and between 45 and 50 added features, such as log ramps, plank bridges, jumps and teeter-totters, said John Barnes, the state agency's liaison with the biking group.

On a recent Saturday, despite more than an inch of snow on the ground, members of the nonprofit association -- mostly professionals in their 20s and 30s from the Salem area -- spent the morning building more features into a new trail called Upper Banzai.

"This is going to be a super-fun line," said association President Rich Bontrager as he used a chain saw and chisel to shave flat the top of a fallen tree. Nearby, other volunteers were hammering planks into a ramp that riders would use to exit the log ride.

A few hours later, the group had swapped Carhartt work coats for bike shirts and were bombing a series of jumps known as Brake Check, howling as they floated over 10-foot gaps and hitting the snowy earth with a clatter.

One rider landed so hard he cracked the frame of his brand new, several-thousand-dollar bike. Freeride bikes are far heavier than "rigid" (no suspension) mountain bikes and have bigger shocks, thicker frames and stronger brakes.

The trails are usable year-round but are busiest in the summer, when around 50 people show up to ride, easily overwhelming the small parking area at the base of the hill, Bontrager said.

Falls City gets a boost

To Falls City residents, the area's popularity is obvious to anyone watching the stream of bike-bearing cars heading to the bike area, three miles west of town.

"I live on Main Street, and I can tell you it is unreal the number of mountain bikers that are coming through town," said Mayor Darrinn Fleener.

The hope among some is that Black Rock and the tourists it brings will offer some economic revitalization to Falls City, population 1,014, which now prominently features a link to the mountain biking group on its Web site, www.fallscity.org.

"The community is sort of struggling to survive and keep its identity," Barnes said. "They are sort of turning the corner here, and now with the mountain bikes here they see another opportunity."

There's been some grumbling in town that Black Rock, the first "bike-only" area on state forest land, is now closed to equestrians and dirt bikers, two more traditional user groups.

And Polk County officials were originally hesitant to endorse this new use of public land, but this fall they sent a letter to the Black Rock bike association saying they supported it as long as riders acknowledged the area was a working forest as well as a biker's playground.

There eventually will be logging in the vicinity of the trails, though not right next to any existing route, said Mike Totey, assistant district forester for the state.

"When we harvest timber off of that block, two-thirds of that revenue goes to Polk County," he said. "And that's important to Polk County."

For the younger generation of locals, whose parents grew up hunting or racing motorbikes up the Black Rock area to Mount Brown, freeriding offers a positive alternative to hanging out and drinking beer by Luckiamute Falls, said Nick Asay, a Falls City teacher and bike frame builder.

"There's a lot of athletic talent," Asay said while riding with one of his students recently at Black Rock. "They've been looking for something to really put their time and interest into."
 

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Black Rock stands out, Eller said, because of the so-far successful collaboration between riders, land managers and community members around the spot. "We've just been anxious to share this success model,

this is very important information if you want to start someething in your area.....

a model that works
 

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Opening up the daily newspaper and seeing a big photo of Rich hitting Brake Check in the snow on the front page... sick. Can't remember the last time I've seen that in the paper. Nice to see BR getting some recognition. Very cool thing going on down there.
 
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