Mountain bike community rallies around trail ‘Godfather’ with cancer; here’s how you can help

Image of Morgan Harris and the Gooseberry Mesa Trail sign created for the fundraiser event, Hurricane, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Bobbi Hughes, St. George News

SOUTHERN UTAH — The mountain biking community is rallying around one of its own who recently underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his jaw. Donation jars have been set up and a fundraiser is being held Saturday at 7 a.m. to support Morgan Harris.

L-R: Bobbi Hughes and Morgan Harris ride Wire Mesa, Hurricane, Utah, circa September 2017 | Photo courtesy of Bobbi Hughes, St. George News

For decades Harris has been a staple in the mountain biking community for his commitment to building and maintaining mountain biking trails in Southern Utah. He, along with his twin brother, is widely credited with building many of the trails that put southwestern Utah on the map as a mountain biking mecca including the Gooseberry Mesa trail network, which is a designated national recreation trail, and the Little Creek Mesa trail.

“They built some of the most famous trails, really, in the world now,” said Jay Bartlett, an avid mountain biker and bike mechanic at Bicycles Unlimited. “Gooseberry is well known all over the world and people come from all over to ride it.”

Harris has also given much of his personal time to maintaining the existing trails in Southern Utah. Harris is often seen on the trails with his dog, Hazel, and a bunch of tools, clearing debris and fixing obstacles.

His years of dedicated service to creating and maintaining world class trails earned Harris the nickname of “The Godfather” of trails, Bartlett said.

“Our trails wouldn’t be what they are without him,” said Bobbi Hughes, a mountain biker and longtime friend of Harris.

But Harris is also known for the service he has given to others in the mountain biking community as well as the greater Southern Utah community.

“He has just always thought of other people,” Hughes said.

Hughes said she has known Harris for over 25 years. The pair became friends through mountain biking.

“He and his twin brother Mike pretty much taught me how to mountain bike. I would meet them over Hurricane pretty much every weekend … they just took me under their wing.”

Harris also taught Hughes’ three boys how to ride mountain bikes and helped them earn their Eagle Scout awards through the community Boy Scout Troop 0509.

“He would come out and help me with all my scouts,” Hughes said.

A donation jar for Morgan “The Godfather” Harris sits inside Bicycles Unlimited, St. George, Utah, July 9, 2018 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Because a community troop sometimes doesn’t have the same benefits of Scout troops sponsored by church organizations, such as leaders who are called by church authorities to serve in the Scouts, Hughes said they sometimes needed extra leaders to go on camping trips or other outings.

Harris would often fill that need, attending camping trips to Gooseberry Mesa and guiding and teaching Scouts how to ride.

“He didn’t have any kids in the troop, he just is a really giving person,” Hughes said, adding that he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body and he is always willing to help anybody with anything.

But now Harris is in need of help himself. In May, Harris was diagnosed with cancer in his lower jaw. He has recently undergone surgery to remove the cancer.

“They had to remove his complete bottom jaw and his chin area, all the tissue, gums and everything that was around it,” Hughes said.

Doctors rebuilt his jawbone using part of his leg bone and skin was replaced using skin grafts from his leg as well.

Morgan Harris doing maintenance on Goosebumps Trail, Hurricane, Utah, circa May 2017 | Photo courtesy of Bobbi Hughes, St. George News

So far the surgery has proven successful in removing the cancer but it also left Harris without his lower teeth. Because of the nature of his new jaw, he will not be able to get dentures, so implants are his best option for replacing his teeth, but insurance will not cover the cost of the implants and Harris does not have dental insurance.

To that end, Hughes is rallying the community to help give back to the man who has given so much to mountain bikers and others in Southern Utah.

Donation jars have been placed at Bicycles Unlimited in St. George and Zion Cycles in Springdale as well as in other Springdale businesses. Hughes said she is hoping to place more jars in other bike shops around Southern Utah as well.

A fundraiser event is being planned for Saturday, which will include a bike ride, breakfast, silent auction, opportunity drawings and a tribute to Harris. Tickets for the fundraiser are $20 and can be purchased online. The registration closes at 5 p.m. Friday; however, interested attendees can also pay in cash or check on site Saturday morning.

Additional monetary and silent auction item donations can be given directly to Hughes. More information can be found by emailing her at bobbi.kirk@gmail.com.

“We just want to give back to him what he gave to us as mountain bikers,” Hughes said.

Event details

  • What: Morgan “The Godfather” Harris fundraiser.
  • When: Saturday, Sept. 15, 7 a.m.
  • Where: Meet at Guacamole Trailhead for bike ride. | Event will be held on private property near the trailhead.
  • Cost: $20.
  • Register: Online. The registration closes at 5 p.m. Friday; however, interested attendees can also pay in cash or check on site Saturday morning.
  • For more information or to donate money or silent auction items email Bobbi Hughes.

Email: hreina@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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