Trail Building in Myakka State Forest

They say it takes a village to raise a child, well it takes a small army of tough volunteers to build a good trail. Construction has begun on the first mountain bike specific path in Myakka State Forest. The forest has 8,500 acres of pinewoods and wetlands which are connected through several dirt roads including north and south loops. There is a great deal of potential space for off road exploration.

Work on the "Palmetto Trail" has been going on since the beginning of 2014. The Sarasota County Off Road Riders (SCORR) have already sent a handful of teams into the woods with challenging results. It is challenging because the Palmettos are fighting back! Even a large crew of experienced builders must push hard to make headway through this area of new growth forest. Armed with some serious weapons, they tag, chop, dig, cut and rake one yard at a time. It can be a grueling slog.

To access the new build, riders must park at the north entrance just off East River Road. When facing the kiosk you'll see the sign for the Slash Pine trail on your left but on your right you can find a much smaller path, this is the Palmetto Trail. It enters the woods and cruises for about 2 miles before connecting back to the Slash trail. This can be connected to the already established 19 miles of marked trails but most of them are wide swaths of grass or sand which cannot compare to the fun of singletrack.

Along the way you might see some of the wildlife known to frequent the area. The forest is well known for bobcats, feral hogs, deer and gopher tortoises. Over 100 species of trees and plants have been identified on the property which backs up to a tributary of the Myakka river.

While riders can come to visit the small completed section, there is so much more to do. The spring rains will be coming soon, along with the heat which can squash progress. If SCORR can get enough volunteers, it is possible to complete the remaining 3 miles before summer so that group rides can take place at the park.

For those rides to happen, the volunteer army needs to grow. Check the SCORR Rider Facebook page for dates concerning the next battle with the dreaded palmettos. Many weapons have been lost to their tough roots but still the workers soldier on. 

You can help expand off road riding here in south Sarasota County and all it takes is a couple hours worth of sweat on a random weekend. Remember, you always appreciate a trail more when you've had a hand in creating it.


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