Senior Adam Johnson helps Gateway Off-Road Cyclists build biking trail


Peyton Gaskill

During a workday, Adam Johnson and Boy Scout Troop 631 help Gateway Off-Road Cyclists on the Rock Hollow trail in Wildwood. Trail builders use a variety of tools, like the “pulaski” (axe-pick mix).

People of all ages enjoy walks in the woods and exciting bike rides through the hills year round, but the hard work that goes into the construction of those paths is not widely known. Senior Adam Johnson has been helping the Gateway Off-Road Cyclists (GORC) build several miles of trail in the St. Louis area.

“I’ve been trail building since I was 8 years old, so about 10 years,” Johnson said. “My dad used to be a professional mountain biker and he’s always been involved in the mountain biker community; this group builds mountain biking trails. So he’s been involved with them for a long time, and brought me along when I was young.”

While his dad may have been the reason he first started coming to trail builds, Johnson’s continued involvement in the outdoors and trails can be attributed elsewhere.

“I’m pretty involved in Boy Scouts. And I think that the idea that Boy Scouts push to help other people and take care of the world that you live in really played a big part in my wanting to build trails. You have a chance to give back to the community and build something outdoors,” Johnson said. “Building mountain bike trails gives you the the opportunity to experience nature while working on building something that will last a lifetime.”

Building mountain bike trails gives you the the opportunity to experience nature while working on building something that will last a lifetime.”

— Adam Johnson

Johnson does most of his trail building through an organization called GORC.

“GORC is comprised of not only cyclists, but hikers [and] equestrians,” Adam’s dad and GORC member Mitch Johnson said. “[GORC] attains grants to buy tools, rent machinery and whatever we need, but also educates its members to design, work with land managers and build and maintain trails.”

These trail builders have put in 5,575 volunteer hours across 18 different trails in 2017 alone. Well over 3,000 of those hours have been on Wildwood’s Rock Hollow trail.

“I think we’re close to 400 members right now. But a lot of people never come out. Average workday is around 30 to 50 GORC members,” member Glenn Meyer said.

Despite a large member base, non-member volunteers do a great deal to help during build days. A. Johnson advised aspiring trail builders to do their research, and figure out how to get involved.

It gives the community a place to go where you can get a little more quiet.”

— Glenn Meyer

“If a student was interested in trail building they could go on the GORC website and get information about the workdays,” A. Johnson said. “They [build] just about every week, and they’re always open to new volunteers. It’s a lot of fun.”

While work on trails is done nearly year-round, most of the organized workdays happen during the fall and spring seasons.

“A typical season is gonna be about eight or ten workdays in a spring season or fall season,” M. Johnson said. “Fall starts in September goes all the way to December. This year is a little bit shorter. But typically eight to 10 workdays in a season, so maybe 15 to 20 a year.”

Despite the primary user group of these trails being mountain bikers, they are far from the only people that use the paths.

“Trail [running] has actually gotten to be a huge, huge thing. And they absolutely love what we’ve done with the trail,” M. Johnson said. “Because they want distance, they want trails to become longer and harder and more difficult, and so trail runners are a big part of it.”

Meyer is happy that their trails play such a big part in the enjoyment of the outdoors for people of all walks of life.

“It benefits anyone in the community who is active. Be it an equestrian, be it a hiker, a trail runner, a birder—it opens up the opportunity to go trail riding together,” Meyer said. “You don’t have cars driving right past you as you’re riding. You can see the different trees, you can see the colors of the leaves in the fall and you can see wildflowers in the spring. It gives the community a place to go where you can get a little more quiet.”