YHCC at Versailles State Park

John Begley

Rusty Spurlock

Tyler Kirk

Robert Schmidt

Indiana is quietly becoming a mountain bike Mecca for riders east of the Mississippi River. Brown County State Park is already on the radar of national riders, and now, with help from Young Hoosiers Conservation Corps workers, Versailles State Park may be developing into a top-notch destination for the sport's enthusiasts.

Located in the rolling hills of southeast Indiana, Versailles is Indiana’s second largest state park, and currently has about 9 miles of mountain bike single-track trail. A number of YHCC workers are spending their summer working to add a few more miles.

John Begley, 18, of Moores Hill; Rusty Spurlock, 22, of Osgood; Tyler Kirk, 22, of Dillsboro; and Robert Schmidt, 23, of Lawrenceburg are four of the YHCC workers building new trails at Versailles under the guidance of professional mountain bike trail builder Mark Rodgers.

The trail-building crew is nearing the completion of a section of trail named Cliffside.

“They call it Cliffside and they got the name right, that’s for sure,” Begley said. “It runs right along the face of a cliff and through two waterfalls. It’s intense.”

The work is not easy, since the crew has to clear much of the trail by hand. There’s a lot of heavy lifting, dirt digging, and tool swinging.

 “There are three steps to the trail-building process,” said Kirk, a soon-to-be sophomore at Hanover College. “First, Mark designs the trail by flagging the high side and low side, and we follow behind taking out the big obstacles—trees, logs, rocks and roots.  Second, we use leaf blowers and rakes to clear the trail. Last, we use adzes and rhinos—hand tools for smoothing the ground—to level the trail.”

Mountain biking is an outdoor activity many are noticing to be on the rise around Indiana.

“It is really surprising how many mountain bikers are coming to the park these days,” said Lucas Green, assistant property manager. “I’m seeing all these new people coming to Versailles, and it makes me wonder what the next big attraction will be.”

A couple of the YHCC workers have become mountain bikers since beginning work on the park’s trail system. Kirk and Schmidt have bought bikes and ridden the trail they helped build.

Learning to build mountain bike trails is just one of the many lessons these YHCC workers are taking away from their experience. These young Hoosiers are also learning about the environment and the importance of disturbing as little of the natural world as possible when using outdoor resources.

“One day, we were working along the creek and we had to be very careful not to get sediment in the water,” Schmidt said. “Working at the state park has taught me a lot about our natural resources and the importance of taking care of them.”

YHCC work at Versailles this summer hasn’t been limited to trail building. Other workers have been roofing old buildings, painting, mowing, doing general maintenance, splitting logs, and more.

“It has been great watching these young men and women learn. They are picking up skills here they couldn’t get anywhere else,” Green said. “I can see some of them are real proud of their job, because they bring their parents here and show them what they’ve done.”

“It’s pretty awesome to ride this new mountain bike trail and think, “Hey, I built this,’” Kirk said.

All in a summer's work.