Start Your Engines! It’s Mt. Elbert Moto!
Local motocross enthusiasts have been dreaming about flying through the air on their dirt bikes over 13 foot jumps on Lake County’s new off-highway vehicle (OHV) track, the latest addition to Leadville’s recreational opportunities. And the Grand Opening day has finally come!
“The later opening time (10 a.m.) is to eliminate any dust interfering with nearby Leadville Airport,” explained Lake County Commissioner Mike Bordogna.
Memberships for Mt. Elbert Moto are $125 for the season and are available at Silver City Conoco, the Lake County Recreation Department and Saturday’s Discount. Day passes will also be available for $10 at the above listed locations. A signed waiver is required for every rider.
Mt. Elbert Moto – The Back Story
Leadville Today is republishing this back story about Mt. Elbert Moto, originally posted last Fall – Enjoy!
Officially established as a Colorado nonprofit corporation on February 2, 2012, Mt. Elbert Moto (MEM) was created in order to develop a private-public partnership with Lake County whose end mission was to assist in the development of an OHV park.
But the story actually starts before all of that, explains Lake County Commissioner Mike Bordogna. Most recall, it was back in 2006 that the original group of motocross enthusiasts gathered and proposed a test track to gauge the level of interest in developing a motocross track. The interest seemed to be there. After all, an OHV park was a recurring priority on the Recreation Master Plan, a document vetted annually by citizens and the Recreation Advisory Board.
But as things sometimes go, the timing wasn’t quite right, the funds were not in place, and there was a sizable amount of planning required, so the project was put on the back burner for several years.
More recently, interest in developing the track peaked again – and the current team (of three) came together in somewhat of a perfect storm to move the project forward in leaps and bounds over the past 18 months.
The three founding members of Mt. Elbert Moto are James McNicholas, Phil Stevens and Mike Bordogna. Or perhaps more aptly put, a public works employee with a passion for riding, a woodworker with a pro-rider past, and a County Commissioner with a vision for recreation in Lake County.
So with a full tank of gas, the group moved forward with their plan to bring an OHV park to Lake County. Fortunately, they conquered their first big obstacle by securing funds in the form of a $207,000 grant from the Colorado State Trails Grant Program. These funds are generated from the sales of OHV use stickers around the state.
One of Mt. Elbert Moto’s next hurdles – or jumps, as they say in the motocross world – was insurance. Of course when it comes to recreation, Lake County has a number of recreational “liabilities” insured, from the tubing hill to the ice skating rink to the gun range. But as Commissioner Bordogna soon discovered, once you put a motor in the mix, insurance liabilities and caps change significantly. Would the project experience another stall?
Fortunately MEM found its tank refilled with information shared from a neighboring private motocross in Summit County: The Tenderfoot Track Club. MEM was able to purchase insurance from the same carrier that covers the Tenderfoot Track for only $2,700 annually.
So the operating entity was in place and the insurance issue was resolved, allowing Mt. Elbert Moto to sign the lease with Lake County. Basically, the county would take over the construction phase and once it was complete, Mt. Elbert Moto would operate the park on county-leased land, an arrangement similar to the local shooting range agreement.
So now that the nuts and bolts were squared away, who would design the track? Enter Phil Stevens former pro rider and Lake County resident.
“I started racing when I was about seven. I raced all around Colorado and Wyoming. I turned local pro when I was 15, got my AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) pro license when I was 16 and went to Nationals,” said Stevens describing his background in the sport. Stevens rode for the Kawasaki Amateur Program called Team Green and captured two amateur national titles and three local pro titles at regional championships during his racing career.
So it’s safe to say that Stevens knows his way around an OHV track and what features make for a good, safe course. Stevens’ approach to designing Mt. Elbert Moto allows riders to progress within the track.
“I designed the jumps in such a way that where you land has a nice gradual slope, which is a safer design than a steeper slope. [This feature] helps riders work into some of the bigger jumps,” Stevens explains. So on the high end is a 13 foot jump, which runs 70 feet in distance. The smaller jumps on the back side of the track range in height from 3 – 5 feet for beginners.
Another unique feature of the course is the “walk through” – a six foot culvert which will allow people to pass through to the inside of the track to watch all of the action without having to cross over traffic on the course. Safety first!
At this stage in development, Mt. Elbert Moto is still considered to be a practice track and does not have plans to hold races on it anytime in the near future. “Races equal more insurance,” explained Bordogna.
So where is the new OHV track site? Hello Moto!
Who better for the job than a guy who had spent most of his youth getting to know every back road track in Lake County: James McNicholas.
“It’s going to be a great thing for the community, for sure,” said McNicholas, onsite foreman for the project and employee of Lake County Public Works. And he outta know. McNicholas grew up in Leadville and has had a passion for motocross since he was old enough to ride.
“I raced for about three years in the late 90s,” explained McNichloas. “But I ended up breaking my femur (on a ride), because we didn’t really have a place like this to come riding. There wasn’t a track to ride and practice.”
But all those broken bones and plans were put to rest on Tuesday, October 16 when McNicholas called the track DONE!
In fact, the State Trails Program is wanting to use Mt. Elbert Moto as an example for other applicants because they were so far under budget on the project. The good news, Bordogna added, is that the group has received an extension on the grant funding to use that money for an additional year for signage and other features for the track.
So what’s the track built with?
“We had the pit run (gravel) left over from the airport project and raised those jumps with some dirt as well. So really the only cost out of pocket for the county was some sand to mix in with the crusher fine and the rental of the D-4 (a little dozer),” explained McNicholas.
Phase one, which is slated to open June 1, 2013, will include an adult motocross track, a kid’s track and a perimeter trail for use by off-road motorcycles and ATVs. Future phases will be constructed in subsequent years to add a fenced in trail network for motorized use only.
The track is a gated, locked facility for Mt. Elbert Moto members and day-users. All of the particulars for day-users are still being worked out and will probably change as the group determines through trial and error what is the best way to keep the track safe and financially sustainable through fees, explained Bordogna. There will also be a volunteer component for every membership, assuring pride in ownership.
So while June might seem like a long way off for all you motocross enthusiasts, come summer you’ll be flying high over the two highest peaks in Colorado!
Any inquiries or questions regarding Mt. Elbert Moto may be directed to Mike Bordogna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On an end note, it’s important to note that a project like this is driven by a team of people, some play bigger roles than others, but it’s the whole that gets the job done. So for anyone who’s helped with a grant application, driven a dozer or simply provided some words of encouragement along the journey – thank you ! Job well done!