By Bryon Black
The Lakeland Area Mountain Biking Organization’s (LAMBO) roots go back to the mid 1990’s. Mountain biking was beginning to take off as a popular sport in Northern Wisconsin, and it didn’t take long for mountain bikers to find and start riding the hiking and skiing trails at the Raven Trail, near Clear Lake in Woodruff, Wisconsin.
Back in those days, it wasn’t well understood how mountain bikers could co-exist with other trails users. There were perceived issues with erosion, as well as conflicts with hikers. The mountain biking community at the time formed Lakeland’s Own Biking Organization (LOBO) to address these issues. And to this day, sections of the Raven’s bike trail utilize single-track that LOBO members built.
Those members also did work to mitigate erosion, foster good relationships with other users, and generally worked with the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest to keep mountain biking alive at the Raven Trail. Those efforts were largely successful!
By the mid 2000’s the sport had grown faster than many had foreseen. The numbers of mountain bikers began to overwhelm the efforts LOBO had made, and mountain biking as a sport at the Raven became endangered.
Around this time, the sport of mountain biking had itself been going through some major changes. Bikes were becoming lighter and suspension technology was getting better - and cheaper. As a result, the types of trails bikers wanted to ride changed. Mountain Bikers were now looking for single track!
This turned out to be the perfect opportunity. Original LOBO members, Steve Petersen (the Superintendent of the NHAL SF), as well as a younger generation of riders recognized that by building trails expressly for the purposes of mountain biking, many of the existing problems would be removed.
These new trails would keep bikers from interacting with other users. Just as importantly, these trails would be built sustainably, in accordance with the International Mountain Biking Associations well-established guidelines.
And the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest would facilitate the whole thing.
Enthusiasm was high, and in the summer of 2006 the name LOBO (Lakeland’s Own Biking Organization) was changed to LAMBO (Lakeland Area Mountain Biking Organization) to more clearly describe the purpose of the club. I remember a lot of discussion around the justification for adding the word “area” so our acronym could be LAMBO. If you ever thought the name LAMBO was meant to sound like Lambeau, you were at least a little bit right!
Members went to work right away by establishing a separate and distinct entrance for mountain bikers to use. With no small amount of nostalgia, I remember LAMBO’s first official work day quite clearly. The turnout was great, and Tony Martinez was there from the NHAL SF to help. He brought all the tools we used and ran the chainsaw like a boss! For the record, Tony is still a boss, and always there when we need him.
The next major step of the Raven was bringing in the IMBA Trail Care Crew (TCC) to teach us all how to build that sweet, and sustainable single track the Raven is known for. Again, we couldn’t have done that without the NHAL SF facilitating the TCC, providing the logistical support, and helping us identify approved routes to build the actual trail on.
Another important example of how LAMBO’s partnership with the NHAL SF has made great things happen is the skills course at the Raven Trail, completed in 2009. LAMBO was quite inexperienced in the ways of fundraising at this time. So the NHAL SF found some grant money for the project. Additionally, the NHAL SF allowed LAMBO volunteers (under Tony’s supervision) to utilize their facilities in building the structures and features over the winter. When summer came, everything was ready to go.
In 2015, LAMBO incorporated as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, a move the really propelled the club forward in its ability to accept donations, attract new members, and manage larger projects.
LAMBO has continued the partnership with the NHAL SF at the Zip Mountain BIking Trail (Zip Trail) in Minocqua. It’s also important to recognize that LAMBO maintains several partnerships in order to build, maintain, and operate the Zip Trail. Those partnerships include the Town of Minocqua, The Northwoods Zip Line, and the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest.
The trail traverses Minocqua Town property, and NHAL SF property. And for each of those properties, LAMBO has a Land Use Agreement. Additionally, LAMBO maintains a snowshoe trail system that traverses both the NHAL SF property and the Minocqua town property.
None of it would be there if the Northwoods Zip Line had not paid to have the first segments of trail built.
It is pretty clear that LAMBO would not exist without great partners. And that relationship will continue to be critical for LAMBO into the foreseeable future.
In the next couple of years, LAMBO plans on starting it’s most ambitious project yet - 15 miles of mountain biking trails on and around the world-class terrain at the old Musky Mountain ski area in Sayner, Wisconsin.
This project is in its infancy, but with the help of amazing volunteers, generous donors, and the invaluable support of the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, Musky Mountain will be one of the best mountain biking trail systems in the Midwest!
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