ARLINGTON -- In the steamy tranquillity of an early evening, a short convoy of veteran bicyclists clattered through a stand of trees and into a field of ragweed and sunflowers in the western reaches of River Legacy Parks.
"Whoop!" Pam Jackson of Garland shouted as she raced over an earthen berm, voicing her approval of the newest addition to the park's popular mountain bike trail system.
River Legacy Trail, a 7-mile black-dirt path, recently grew by a half-mile thanks to a volunteer effort that has built the entire trail over the past eight years.
Members of the Dallas Off-Road Bicycle Association and other biking enthusiasts hacked through weeds and brush to map out a rough route through several untouched acres of the park. Then they followed with hoes and other hand tools to till and shape the course.
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All in one day.
They still plan to touch up corners and grade some sections for better drainage. But the extension, which creates a more challenging loop off the main trail, is quite a ride already.
"It's a lot of fun," Jackson said after finishing the full course. "It's got good flow, with the berms and bumps. That's the beauty of this trail."
The scenic trail network began in 2003 after a crackdown by the city on illegal path cutting throughout the park. Officials blamed more aggressive bikers, mostly bicycle motocross riders who sliced spider trails and built hills and moguls in the woods.
"It was causing a lot of erosion," said De'Onna Garner, the city's park planning manager. "They were bringing in equipment and cutting down trees and moving dirt."
The city retaliated by closing down trail entrances and writing tickets. Officials also signed an agreement with the Dallas off-road association allowing members to build and maintain a mountain bike trail that started at 3 miles long.
"I speak for the maintenance group and in general -- this thing has been a really good win-win situation," Garner said.
"We think it's been a very good relationship."
As the mountain biking trail has expanded over the years, it has become a premier spot for beginning and intermediate riders.
The latter can take more challenging loops off the main trail, with names like EKG and Fun Town, to find steeper climbs and drops and sharper turns. Riders with less experience or who want a shorter track can bypass all the higher-skill loops, reducing the course to 5 miles.
"I think for entry and midlevel bikers it's definitely one of the best ones around and best-maintained," said Rick Buckley, director of the North Texas Mountain Bike Patrol.
"It has nice swooping turns, flat portions where you can really get your speed up, nice jumps."
Healthy and fun
The park also offers a slice of nature in the middle of an urban area.
"When I first moved to Dallas 18 years ago, I was depressed because I thought I was stuck in the middle of the city," said Paul Hakes, one of the off-road association's general directors. "You get 10 seconds into that trail, and you're in the country."
His other reason for taking up off-road biking he summed up with a number: "Three hundred pounds."
"That's what I weighed," he said. "I lost 100 pounds in one year just doing this."
And his high blood pressure and diabetes are well under control, he said.
Fitness was also a motive for Glenn Showers, 60, when he took up biking at age 30. But it wasn't the main one.
"I got into this because I wanted to do something fun," he said. "I don't care how old you are; riding a bicycle is just freaking fun."