The Story of Sac River Mountain Bike Trails

Photo: Nathan Todd

Photo: Nathan Todd

A generation of area residents have grown up exploring the Sac River Mountain Bike Trails both on foot and by bicycle. The trails and surrounding area also have a rich history, some of which is woven into the park today. In the early 1990’s, mountain biking was new to Springfield, but growing in popularity despite no dedicated location for the sport. Ozark Greenways Inc., formed in 1991, identified a need fora mountain bike trail, and in 1996, they found the right spot: 300 acres of City of Springfield Public Works property, buffering the Northwest Wastewater Treatment Plant. Ozark Greenways worked with City of Springfield for permission to turn the property into the Sac River Mountain Bike Trails, and the Springfield-Greene County Park Board agreed to accept the park into its system. Volunteers with Ozark Greenways and an unofficial club known as “Springfield Singletrack Society” immediately began developing of the first two-mile perimeter trail, removing countless thorny locust trees. Lots of thorns were also picked up in the tires of pioneering riders. (You know who you are — thank you!)

Photo: Ozark Greenways, Inc.

Photo: Ozark Greenways, Inc.

The momentum continued to develop the trail system further as the sports of mountain biking, hiking, and trail running gained local interest in the late nineties and early 2000’s. Sac River Mountain Bike Trails became host to several annual mountain bike races, running events, and off-road duathlons. Volunteer work days provided numerous hours of brush clearing, trail building, and educating users on stewardship. Additionally, the Good Samaritan Boys Ranch turned the overgrown and unrecognizable cemeteries into a historical feature of the park, all while creating the lesson that a small amount of attention can turn something around for the better. We owe a great deal of appreciation to all the volunteers who have poured so much love and hard work into these trails. In 2012 Ozark Greenways worked with TrailSpring and volunteers from Missouri Off-Road Cyclists (MORC) to salvage materials from a deteriorating barn on the property, re-purposing the wood and native rock from the area to construct a picnic pavilion at the trail-head. The pavilion provides cover and shade for special events and visitors, and it serves as a reminder of a time when the area was farmland.

Photo: Ozark Greenways, Inc.

Photo: Ozark Greenways, Inc.

Over the years, both mountain biking and trail running have continued to grow in popularity throughout the region. The Sac River Mountain Bike Trails have also grown, now offering 14 miles of interconnecting trails. The park attracts mountain bikers, hikers, and trail runners. It’s a unique community resource, providing safe, family-friendly, and close-to-town access to fun, fitness, and our beautiful outdoors. Several annual events and fundraisers take place at the park each year, and multiple clubs have formed since the trail opened. The enthusiasm for the trail is greater than ever! Thank you to our partners! The Sac River Mountain Bike Trail is supported by the Missouri Off-Road Cyclists (MORC), the International Mountain Biking Association, and the Springfield-Greene County Park Board.

Photo: Ozark Greenways, Inc.

Photo: Ozark Greenways, Inc.

A quick look back: The Wilson family farm, 1858-1893

The Sac River Mountain Bike Trails property was once part of Cynthia and William Wilson’s 300- acre farm. Records at the Greene County Archives show the Wilson family owned this land from 1858-1893. The Wilson family left behind two historic cemeteries – one used by white residents and one used by black residents, including former slaves. Not much remains of either plot. There are no headstones, only slight depressions as indication of where graves are located. According to research by the Springfield News-Leader in 2011, the cemeteries date from 1865 to 1913. Among those buried are Hetty, the head cook for the Wilson’s when they moved to Missouri; Pete, who also worked in the family’s house, Rachel, who succeeded Hetty as head cook; and a dozen members of the Wilson family.

Story by: Ozark Greenways, Inc.

April Nelson