After rain and potential flooding postponed the original dates of the second Marmaton Massacre cycling event, organizer Frank Halsey was not sure how many participants would be involved in the race held at the Gunn Park trails.
“We don’t know the impact on the number of people who will show up,” Halsey said before the event, which was rescheduled to Aug. 15-16.
But Halsey said the delay might have been a blessing in disguise as it likely kept the event from becoming too large for them to handle, after a successful first year brought in several new racers and led to their being the location of the Kansas State Mountain Biking Championship.
“For a first year, that was considered pretty good,” Halsey said of the turnout of about 45 cyclists and the selection for the championship location after the 2014 race. “It was a little overwhelming for us, being as young as we are.”
The second year of the event brought in more than 100 racers from around the state and even neighboring states.
“It was great,” Halsey said of the two-day race, calling it a huge success. “I think it was everything I’d hoped for.”
Halsey said many of those cyclists were new to the trails and were surprised by how well-made they were, including stretches of flat ground as well as more challenging, hilly areas.
“They had no idea we had this quality of trails,” Halsey said, saying several cyclists expressed their interest in coming again in the future while others from out of town have already begun coming weekly to ride the trails. “They just didn’t know what to expect.”
While the event did bring in a slight profit, which Halsey said will be used for the trail work and maintenance, Halsey also said he believes the city of Fort Scott benefitted from the event as well as participants stayed in hotels for the weekend and shopped and ate at local venues.
“I know we brought business to Fort Scott,” Halsey said.
Changes from the first race held in 2014 included the addition of a challenging half-mile to the trail, holding the event on both Saturday and Sunday and a children’s race held Saturday. Those activities as well as live music, vendors, bounce houses and an option for camping provided a more festival atmosphere, Halsey said.
Halsey said the event could not have happened without the team of volunteers and sponsors who participated, and already they are beginning to look at planning a third race for the summer of 2016.
Prior to 2010, the bike trails did not even exist. But Halsey, who had been interested in cycling for some time since a knee injury kept him from jogging, began to look into creating the trails at Gunn Park in 2009, finally receiving permission from the city to do so the following year.
“It’s a labor of love, so to speak,” Halsey said of the slow process.
With one to 10 volunteers helping at a time, working mostly in the winter when there is the least amount of brush to clear, the trails have slowly expanded over the past five years into a seven-mile course, with space for about a mile further before there is no more available ground for the trail.
“It’s my new hobby,” Halsey said of the trails, which he first started working on by himself with a rake and a machete. “It’s become a much bigger project than I anticipated.”