Swamp Mountain Bike Club is always blazing new trails.
In fact, the whole point of this avid trail biking club is to welcome out more riders, all while promoting and advocating natural surface trail recreation locally.
And it’s been doing that for more than a decade.
“(That is) absolutely (what the club is all about),” said Jordan Nelson, the club’s trail boss, who is charged with maintaining the trails at Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park in New Port Richey. “We get people together, we ride together and we get out and see the trails and explore. We’re all volunteer-based, too, so getting together like-minded people who love trail riding and even making new trails — that’s why the club was founded.”
Swamp Mountain Bike Club was founded more than a decade ago because riders were looking for a way to connect, and for places where they could ride and help maintain as a group.
It started at Flatwoods Park off Bruce B. Downs in New Tampa.
Since then, the club has expanded to around 700 members, to more parks with trails, routine rides and trail maintenance, and additional events that can include camping and other outdoor activities.
“That’s what it’s all about — get out and ride, meet people, new friends that ride together, try other trails, and that’s why we’re doing it and why we work hard to maintain the trails,” Nelson said. “I took on the job as trail boss here (at Starkey) because I have small kids and want them to be a part of this and show them, and others, that work has to go into maintaining (trails).
“That way it’ll be a nice place for them to ride when they’re older.”
Nelson, along with a couple other trail bosses and members/volunteers, maintains the 19 miles of trails at Starkey Park, which he adds is great for beginners because of its flatness.
They’ll make sure the natural surface paths are cleared and in tip-top shape, but they’ll also add amenities such as picnic tables and benches. Additionally, they’ll add ramps, boardwalks and bridges where needed.
“With nearly 20 miles of trails in Starkey, you would never know it, but it’s a lot of miles, and we’re looking to expand soon, at least early next year,” Nelson said. “The biggest part of the job is maintaining the trails and relationships with the county and parks departments. The money we raise through fees and events helps us build new trails and maintain them. But it is a constant upkeep.”
But upkeep also can be fun. Sure, the club will have its routine rides — from avid riders to newbies and even family friendly rides with kids — but at Starkey, the club has something on the trail that stands out from the rest.
The Gnome Zone.
Deep back on the trails in Starkey, there is a section lovingly known as a forest and several gnome figurines have been placed along the trail and in the trees. Surprisingly, it is not well-known — or even advertised — until riders happen upon the gnomes.
“Unless you’re paying attention, you might not even know about it, but yeah, we get a lot of like, ‘Oh, wow, gnomes,’” Nelson said with a laugh. “The gnomes, it’s just been a feature of the trail ever since we’ve been maintaining it and the Forest of the Gnomes. The trees back there have a lot of long branches and so gnomes just starting to appear on them and on the trail — and people love it when they see them.
“It just kind of became, ‘Oh, you rode Starkey? That’s the trail with all the gnomes!’ so it just became a bit of its signature, that it’s now known for the gnomes.”
Swamp Mountain Bike Club
Details: Swamp Mountain Bike Club Inc. is a 501(c)3 group focusing on advocacy for mountain biking and natural surface trail recreation in the Greater Tampa Bay Area. The club sustainably maintains more than 100 miles of natural surface singletrack. The club maintains tracks at Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park, Flatwood Wilderness Park, Croom in the Withlacoochee State Forest and Balm Boyette Scrub Preserve. The club also meets routinely for group rides and trail maintenance.
Cost: Yearly membership starts at $40. Attending and/or participating in events may cost extra.
Info: Visit SwampMTBclub.com, or email .
Published November 01, 2023