MAYODAN — Raindrops didn’t come close to rubbing the shine off one of Rockingham County’s recreational gems last weekend.
Sunday’s gloomy clouds hovered above Farris Memorial Park’s Mayodan Mountain Bike Trail, but were a mere afterthought for more than 400 middle school and high school cyclists who competed in the fourth event of the 2019 North Carolina Interscholastic Cycling League Race Series.
Throughout the weekend campers and cars overflowed the Farris parking lot, spilling onto through a field of open grass, as bikers in vibrant jerseys darted through the park, painting a beautiful canvas as they awaited their turn on the challenging three-mile course.
Family, friends and fans alike, filled the infield and playground areas, cheering for their favorite athletes.
Overall, officials estimate 1,000 people attended the race series, which returns to Farris for its state championship event on May 19.
“We’ve had people from Carolina Beach, all the way to Asheville, and it’s fantastic,” said Mayodan Town Manager Lessa Hopper on race day. “We are excited about it, and we are so happy that people are here.”
Throughout the day, officials, parents, coaches and riders shared about their fondness of the 3.3-mile single track loop that opened to the public in June 2016.
One NC NICA parent from the Charlotte area described the course, designed and cut by trail master Tony McGee of Round Rock Design, as the “most beautiful course we have on the circuit.”
During the race, NICA officials talked over the speaker system about the unmatched level of support their league gets from Mayodan officials and Mayodan Mountain Bike Trail supporters and organizers.
“We heard repeatedly from coaches and family members about how much they appreciated the Town of Mayodan making them feel so welcome,” said Dan River Basin Association Program Manager Jenny Edwards, who played an integral role in Sunday’s race as an organizer and helped spearhead creation of the successful bike trail.
“It just goes to show how a well-designed trail built specifically for users can attract visitors and economic development to a community,” Edwards said.
The trail is one of the many growing points of the memorial park that was once quite dormant.
Since 2017, thousands of bike tires have crossed finish lines and made imprints on the track’s curves and bends.
Hopper said riders and guests consistently share stories of their love for the park and its vast amenities and how they wish they had a comparable venue back home.
The 270-acre recreational paradise features two fishing ponds, walking trails, soccer and baseball fields, an amphitheater, picnic shelters, a driving range, miniature golf, and a large playground.
During the race series weekend, cyclists from across North Carolina stayed on-site, as convenient, self-contained camping was allowed for the event.
Hopper said some town staff and council members, would love to see permanent camping at the park in the future.
As for the mountain bike trail, McGee, along with Edwards and town officials, are working to complete a one-mile addition to the system.
Edwards, who has played a major role in putting Mayodan on the mountain biker map, said the local course isn’t just a shining jewel that attracts outsiders.
The diamond of a trail, like the many other walking trails that have blossomed in Rockingham County --thanks in part to Edwards’ leadership and dedication, will be enjoyed by Rockingham County residents for generations.
“These trails aren’t just economic development, although this weekend shows that they can be used for that,” Edwards said. “These trails give our local residents a chance to go outside and get exercise in outdoor spaces that they might not have otherwise been able to get to.”
Local residents, outside visitors and officials agree the carved path is polishing its identity from a diamond in the rough.
A mecca for cyclists of all skill-levels, the park is a like a forming crystal now glistening with brilliance.
“We know that the people that built this trail put their heart and soul into this track,” said Hopper, who gains joy from hearing so many people say the local course is one of the best in North Carolina. “I would say we probably could put it up against other states as being one of the best tracks.”
The life-long Mayodan resident says she’s excited to see the Mayodan Mountain Bike Trail grow and that the town is continuing to seek funding to support those efforts.
“I think if we can get it to the five-mile mark, we would be in a great position to have people come from other states and all across the Southeast,” Hopper said.
Joe Dexter is a staff writer for RockinghamNow. He can be reached at 336-349-4331 ext. 6139 or @JoeDexter_RCN on Twitter.