St. Charles County, which borders St. Louis, has one of the fastest growing populations in the state. Ask anyone who grew up in the county and they will tell you that its once “country-like” atmosphere has become more “city-like.”
More people bring more demand for additional outdoor recreation opportunities. The 8,106-acre Weldon Spring Conservation Area in St. Charles County has served as a popular destination for hikers, hunters and birdwatchers since it was purchased in 1978. Thanks to the population boom, the area is now attracting more non-traditional users.
For example, the local mountain biking community has taken a liking to the Lost Valley Trail on Weldon Springs. The trail has always been open to bicycles, but in the past only a small group of local mountain bikers rode on it.
The trail was an 8-mile loop that mainly followed gravel service roads and old logging roads, many of which were built in the early 1900s. Over time, several sections of the trail had become heavily eroded, which made them difficult to hike, much less ride a bike on.
In 2003, a local mountain biking organization called the Gateway Off-Road Cyclists (GORC) contacted the Missouri Department of Conservation and volunteered support to help improve the Lost Valley Trail. The group proposed building some new sections of trail around the more heavily eroded sections.
Initially, area managers had some concern about allowing a volunteer group of off-road cyclists to build new trails that would be used by the public both for hiking and biking. Would the trails be suitable for all types of area users? Could they build new trails through the area’s rough terrain that would stand up to heavy use? Could they enlist enough volunteers willing to put in the time to build new trails?
After inspecting some of the group’s prior projects and learning more about the trail-building expertise its members could offer, the Department decided GORC could be a valuable asset for the Lost Valley Trail. The group even adopted the Lost Valley Trail though the Department’s Adopt-A-Trail Program.
GORC was founded in 1997 by John Donjoian, a local engineer and an avid mountain biker. GORC started as a small, grass-roots group of friends hoping to improve some of their favorite biking trails. In the last few years, GORC has expanded into a well-respected group of trail designers and builders.
The club’s 200 members have donated more than 10,000 hours of volunteer labor to design