Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Calhoun County series.
If the name of this mountain bike trail in Marshall doesn’t pique your interest, the trail itself, will, says Enrique Lerma, a frequent trail user and a senior at Marshall High School.
Known as The Dump, the 4.5-mile single-loop trail is located on land that used to be home to a landfill, hence the name, says Lerma, who plans to enroll in Kellogg Community College after he graduates.
“The landfill was destroying a nearby lake and was shut down,” he says. “In the 1990s it came out that the landfill was polluting Stuart Lake. There were bits of garbage and whatnot that was going into the lake. A couple of guys went out there one day and saw the potential and created a bike trail. For it to become a bike trail and nature trail, that is really amazing.”
Although The Dump has its share of followers, mostly mountain bikers seeking new trails to master, Lerma says it continues to be a well-kept secret among locals. He's trying to change that by putting into practice the skills he is learning in a Graphic Communications Technology program at the Calhoun Area Career Center.
A view of one of the curves that make The Dump a difficult ride.
He was one of 21 students
in that program who gave presentations on Sept. 29 about topics based on the question: What positive secrets should be known to the community?
Lerma decided to focus on The Dump because he says, “It’s just one of those things, you don’t really run into. A lot of towns don’t have things like this to offer.”
As he works the local exposure angle, The Dump was receiving statewide exposure through Michigan Trails magazine which highlighted the trail in a 2020 issue of its publication
. The article says the first challenge is finding the trailhead. It's located by looking for a sign on Homer Road that says “City of Marshall Compost Center.”
Directions included in the article – “Turn onto that side street, then immediately turn right, and then left to reach the trailhead. Look for a sign that says 'The Dump.' This is where your adventure begins.”
“As its name implies, about half of the trail was built on the overgrown remnants of a landfill, the other half in a mature woodland,” the Michigan Trails article says. “This one-way trail was cleverly designed to take full advantage of the irregular terrain. It zigzags through ditches, over berms, and dense tunnels of underbrush with lots of tricky turns, jumps, and ramps made from found materials, such as rocks, logs, broken concrete, and cinder blocks. The Dump will test your reflexes, endurance, and technical skills. A full-suspension bike will come in handy. Be advised, near the end of the trail, you’ll cross a boardwalk over a briar patch with a steep jump at the end. Be cautious on your first ride, then come back, and conquer!”
The trail is labeled a Black Diamond Trail for its level of difficulty, Lerma says.
A trail through The Dump.
The ratings for many mountain bike trails are determined by the International Mountain Bicycling Association
Not in it for the money, there is none
The Dump trail is maintained by volunteers who also manage a Facebook page
that contains alerts, updates, and comments from people who have ridden and hiked the trail.
Derrick Begley says in a post on The Dump Facebook page that he has ridden the trail and has also walked it numerous times with his wife and says the experience has always been enjoyable. He thanked those who maintain the trail and the markers along the way.
Pieter Hoekstra, a lead volunteer, says, “There is no ‘them’ when it comes to this loop. It's all of us. It's a 100% poached trail and exists because it's fun and everyone who loves it adds to it.”
Lerma says some of the other posts have included invitations for people to come out and test a new feature that’s being added, including a jump that was added last Fall. He says his brother was among those who tested it out and “failed epically.”
He says he was about 10-years-old when his father took him to The Dump for the first time.
“I didn’t really bike back then. We hiked it,” Lerma says. “I just recently started getting into the bike trails. I was never real good at biking. I was a two-left feet kind of person. I used to go out there twice a year to bike and hike and now I go out there a lot” with the exception of winter months which makes the trail difficult to find if there is snow.
A trail through The Dump.
Trips to The Dump have become a “family thing,” he says.
“I think it’s for the people that really enjoy what they do and what they do is biking. It’s more of like a pirate after treasure. It’s pretty awesome once you find it,” Lerma says. “I hope that people will learn from what I’ve tried to do to get the word out that the world is definitely a big place and we don’t really need to travel to big extravagant places if can find what we want in our hometown.”
A YoutTuve video of a ride on the trail can be found here.