When Stu and Lori Drake wanted something better for their community of Clarksville mountain bikers, they embraced the spirit of Do-It-Yourself and became carers of the abandoned 90-acre North River Street Community Park.
Drakes have taken to maintaining the garden the way someone would take care of a Japanese garden – with intent, time, care, and thought.
A volunteer group, the Clarksville Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA), decided to take responsibility for the park and clean up in 2018.
When the news came back to Clarksville Parks and Recreation, they embraced the group and gave them their blessing in 2019.
read this:Tourism in Montgomery County is nearing pre-COVID levels, ranking 9th in Tennessee for spending
APSU Monday:Credits, chairs, new plant species and talk about space
Today, the park is a place of learning for everyone, from beginners to experienced riders.
“We entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with CAMBA in 2018,” said Michelle Austin, deputy director of Recreation at Clarksville Parks and Recreation. We were familiar with their Rotary work and knew their caliber. They have the experience, they have voluntary commitments to go out there and do that work, and it’s something they love to do while they’re good at it.”
Stu Drake helps out wherever he can, but his time in Clarksville is limited by other commitments.
“While the park has grown by leaps and bounds and has survived the coronavirus, there is still a shortage of volunteers and a lack of funding, there is still a struggle ahead to get that slice of paradise,” he said. “Without the proper funding and a dedicated caretaker, the park will have problems when it comes to keeping it clean from overgrowth as well as general maintenance and cleanliness.
“It’s not sustainable on the backs and budgets of three people.”
Drake said that while Clarksville Parks and Recreation is committed to matching funds raised by CAMBA as well as advertising the park, a quick start is needed to get the park on a more stable footing.
“We’ve always wanted to add our maintenance department here at the parks, and I think when we’re looking at adding additional functionality, that’s something we want to look at,” Austin said.
In April 2022, the group hosted its first downhill event with the blessing of Parks and Recreation. Organizers said it turned out to be a huge success, attracting people from across the region and outside the country.
In other news:New Montgomery County officials sworn in
more:New opening hours at the Montgomery location in Blood Assurance due to reduced blood supply
“It was a great time, and we would like it to become an annual event,” Austin said. “This was the first time we’ve allowed an event like this to happen, and we’d like to consider providing more assistance next year.”
As the park continues to grow, the Drakes say they look to Murfreesboro for inspiration.
They hope to make their mountain bike park a staple of the Tennessee mountain bike community, a destination where people often travel from hundreds of miles away.
“If CAMBA can get financial support, in 10 years Ford Street Park will be a star, not just a gem in Clarksville,” said Laurie Drake. “It is unique in that it is only a mountain bike, and with the right funding and sponsorship, this can be a destination and attraction for Clarksville.”
If funding is not provided, the garden will remain a DIY space and will take a lot of time to grow.
But the passion will remain.
Drakes and CAMBA will continue to use their own tools, manpower and ingenuity to continue enhancing Clarksville’s mountain bike scene for as long.