ST. GEORGE — By the time the sun set on Saturday, Santa Clara resident Norm Nielsen had been riding his bike for 12 hours and 50 minutes. In that amount of time, he acquired some stunning photos, sore muscles and more than $9,000 to put toward building a 60-mile trail on Pine Valley Mountain.
An avid mountain biker, Nielsen is raising money for the Trails Alliance of Southern Utah, a St. George-based nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing and maintaining mountain biking trails and opportunities in Southern Utah. All money that Nielsen raises will fund a 60-mile trail on Pine Valley Mountain, which he helped the alliance design.
“It takes a lot of money to maintain and build trails,” Nielsen told St. George News. “This is an opportunity to give back to what we enjoy.”
When Nielsen was planning the fundraiser, he knew he wanted to do something special to make it more of a challenge and to involve the community. He chose to ride 100 miles because it seemed like a big personal challenge for him, he said, and a good number for trying to raise as much money as possible per mile. He also chose to do his ride at Bearclaw Poppy in St. George because it’s a place that is dear to his heart, he said.
Nielsen started riding at 3 a.m. Saturday morning. He would ride a 20-mile loop, then return to his truck at the trailhead to rehydrate, refuel and fix any mechanical issues on his bike. He did that until he hit 100 miles, he said, and spent a total of 15 hours at Bearclaw Poppy that day.
“I just felt an overwhelming amount of support,” he said. “I went off the grid to focus on my ride and had a good friend run all my social media, then afterwards I started reading all the messages from people. It was full of just really positive vibes.”
Nielsen documented most of his journey leading up to Saturday on his Instagram page. In addition to the fundraiser and bike riding challenge, he incorporated several giveaways through sponsors and opportunities for the community to participate.
People can donate 50 cents per mile or $50 and be entered to win things like hats, jerseys and shoes from Nielsen’s sponsors. People can also donate $1 per mile or $100 and be entered to win a $2,500 bike frame from Fezzari Bicycles and a $900 bike rack from VelociRAX. Other businesses, including Cascade Armory, Afton Shoes, Trail Manos and SCC Tech, sponsored Nielsen and donated items for the giveaways.
The giveaways and the 100-mile challenge made the whole fundraiser more fun for Nielsen, he said.
“It was really cool to be able to do that, but more so, have people involved throughout the day,” he said. “It was really cool to see people coming together in a climate that there’s so much division and turmoil.”
Kevin Christopherson, president of the alliance, told St. George News that Nielsen’s fundraiser will help the organization in a big way. He estimates that the entire 60-mile trail project will cost $900,000. He hopes that the alliance will be able to obtain grants to help with the labor costs, and he added that even $10,000 from Nielsen and the community will help the alliance match the money they get from grant programs.
“In terms of Norm’s commitment, I think it’s awesome,” Christopherson said. “Not only did he raise a lot of money, but it shows when we apply for the grant how much the community is behind it. If you can show a variety of sources of your money, that’s a big thing for them. They want to make sure it goes to the communities that really want it. It sends a message.”
Christopherson added that it is more expensive to build trails in Utah these days than most people think. On average, it costs $20,000 per mile, he said. The alliance hopes to build the Pine Valley Mountain trail for less than that through community donations of volunteer time and dollars. Christopherson hopes to be able to start building this fall.
The trail will fill many needs in the St. George area biking community, Christopherson said. It will be primarily a downhill trail in an area where there are not many trails. It will also be cooler in the summer months than many of the area’s desert trails, which Christopherson hopes will promote tourism. It is meant to be a suitable higher elevation trail for all skill levels and will provide a place for the National Interscholastic Cycling Association’s high schoolers to train for riding in the summer.
Nilesen’s fundraiser is still open to donations and donors can still be entered into the giveaways. It will close Friday at midnight.
Ed. Note: The price of the bike frame in the giveaway was corrected.
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