Years ago I decided to purchase a kayak. I had been a canoe guy for most of my life but was drawn to the much more comfortable seating of a kayak. I also liked the ease of control that a single paddler could enjoy. A recreational kayak was a lot like riding a bike. I could go as fast as I was physically capable or slow to enjoy moment. I could go any way that I wanted. I could explore via my own power. This has always inspired me.
I settled on a used Old Town Loon. A bright yellow recreational kayak that wore enough badges of adventure to bring the price into a range that would not have me eating ramen for the next year. The seller was a mountain biker/paddler from Northwest Arkansas I met through an Arkansas Canoe Club message board. While on other business in Fayetteville I met the seller and happily loaded the boat on the top of my truck. The boat was covered with stickers promoting various bike parts (this was certainly a boat for me) but one stood out, it said OORC, Ozark Off-Road Cyclists.
Over the following years I would look for information on the internet about OORC, not finding much, occasional mentions of trail work, a website that looked like it was struggling for attention from the owners. I soon chalked it up to a group that had disbanded after a short life. Too bad, the state could use more mountain bike clubs.
Fast forward to a couple of years ago…
Shortly after I started the Arkansas Outside website, began racing in the Arkansas Mountain Bike Championship Series and took a class in trail building and maintenance presented by the International Mountain Biking Association at Devil’s Den State Park, I met Phil Penny, President of Ozark Off-Road Cyclists along with several other members. These guys seemed to be the core of a small group of trail builders who had worked on trails throughout Northwest Arkansas. They were also among the friendliest people I’ve ever met and they had a pure joy of mountain biking and building trails.
Since that first meeting, I’ve caught up with various group members at several mountain bike races (although they are not a racing team), bumped into them when riding various trails in the area, talked extensively with them about the future of mountain biking and trails in Arkansas and even spent a wonderful weekend with many of them at Hazel Valley Ranch earlier this year. Mainly, I watched them grow.
They learned some valuable things about having a service club as Chuck Maxwell the clubs trails coordinator explained to me last fall. They realized that the club would always be run by a small group of dedicated people, the key was to build up the support for what they were doing. Having a membership large enough that allowed them to get things done even when only a small percentage were active. It seems to be paying off. A new, well laid out website, a robust events program and involvement in not only trail building but land preservation issues which brings support from non-mountain biking members of the community.
Local clothing and lifestyle company, Fayettechill (AO supporter), worked with them and developed and marketed a t-shirt promoting OORC. A portion of each sale goes to the club. The Ozark Off-Road Cyclists have been around for nearly 30 years putting them at the forefront of mountain biking not just in Arkansas but in the country. They have had their ups and downs, influence has ebbed and flowed but right now they are on a high, doing advocacy work at Mt. Kessler and Lake Fayetteville, building and maintaning trails throughout Northwest Arkansas and promoting a healthy, outdoor lifestyle in The Natural State.
Please enjoy the recently released video that Fayettechill did to help promote the club. Feel free to share it throughout your social networks and next time you’re hiking or walking a trail in Arkansas, take a moment to remember those who protect the land and build and maintain the trails. Go ahead and join, you don’t have to be a mountain biker or get one of the shirts. (I have one and they are very nice, perfect for those cooler evenings around a campfire that are coming up soon.)