Physical education teachers at Lander Middle School are designing a curriculum that gives kids free access to mountain bikes. To make that happen, they needed bikes—and they turned to the LOR Foundation for help. Read more
Growing up in Lander, Alan Mandel was always looking for places to launch himself—typically on his bike—into the air. By the time he was 15 years old, he was well on his way to becoming a professional mountain bike rider and trail builder. He needed more practice ground, though, and no formal, city-sanctioned area existed for him to cultivate this passion.
Around the same time, he was was working toward becoming an Eagle Scout, an achievement that would require him to undertake a project for the community’s benefit. So, he used the opportunity to his advantage. For his Eagle Scout project, he would create Lander’s first dirt jump park—something that would help him sharpen his riding skills and share his passion with the wider community. It would also be a place where generations of other Lander mountain bikers—young and old—could get outdoors, exercise, and practice a new hobby without having to leave town.
Mandel told the city he would need some land, dirt, and equipment to create a pump-track style course with large jumps, ramps, and other features that would help riders develop their skills. “And all of a sudden, the city came together, and helped me come up with all the materials and everything was donated at the park,” he says. “We ended up building this bike park, the first version in one weekend. It was incredible.”
For 15 years the park, which is located adjacent to Lander High School, supported seasonal riding in a community where the mountain biking scene has continued to grow (there are now more than 400 miles of mountain bike trails in and around Lander). But in 2021, Lander Cycling Club executive director Ami McAlpin realized the park was in need of some TLC: Some of the ramps needed to be rebuilt, one wooden ramp was particularly unsafe, and an ill-placed water spigot had created a mess that was only worsened by tire tracks.
McAlpin and other community members reached out to the LOR Foundation, explained the importance of the park, and made a case for its revitalization: The park provides an essential training ground close to town that keeps kids and other locals moving—and improving. As the popularity of the sport grows—the middle school even has its own bike fleet now—so does the health of the community, and the bike park allows kids to access physical activity right in their back yards. Because of its close proximity to downtown, kids can bike to the park themselves, and then bike around and then back home. “It really increases the access to the outdoors and creates another asset that is available right here in town,” says Ami Vincent, LOR’s Lander community officer. “That’s a huge benefit for the Lander community.”
And who better to lead the revitalization effort than the park’s original creator? With a $26,000 grant from LOR, the Lander Cycling Club was able to hire Mandel—who now splits his time between Wyoming, British Columbia, and other riding destinations—to lead the rebuild process. He jumped (pun intended) at the opportunity to return home and help, beginning work on the project in the fall of 2022 before snow paused the rebuild progress. This spring, with help from local Eagle Scouts, he plans to finish the project.
“It was the first park that I ever did, and the park’s really special for me, because it planted a seed for my future career,” says Mandel, whose company Trail Co. Inc., builds everything from municipal trails to event courses. Mandel has worked with some of the top riders in the world and travels around the world working on trail builds. But it’s in his hometown of Lander where the now 28-year-old feels his work has come full circle. “For me, the ultimate goal and vision is to grow the riding scene in the community here and create a much more inviting facility for people to come in and have a really positive experience for their first time,” he says.
That’s important, because you never know where, or when, a kid’s passion might take flight.
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To learn more about mountain biking in Lander and to keep updated on the reopening of the dirt jump park, visit the Lander Cycling Club's website.Learn More
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A former librarian, Ami has long been energized by connecting people to essential resources. She loves to listen and dig deeper into what her community actually needs. Whether that’s information, a grant, or an introduction to other support systems, Ami… Meet Ami
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