Burke is a mountain biking mecca for many New Englanders and Canadians alike, but a new contest is aiming to make the sport popular with a new type of audience.
Burke Mountain was empty Tuesday afternoon, but in just a few weeks the chair lift will be churning once again with a different kind of customer-- mountain bikers.
"You're out there, you're with your buddies, you're out there by yourself even and you can just kind of forget and just go," said CJ Scott of Kingdom Trials. Scott has seen Kingdom Trails through a decade of growth. The nonprofit builds and maintains a massive network of mountain bike trails. The sport is now neck and neck with skiing as a revenue generator for the region.
"They attract over 50,000 summer visitors to the Burke area," said Hannah Collins of the Burke Area Chamber of Commerce
The map of trails is already extensive, but Scott is hoping to add one more. Kingdom Trails is on the final leg of a Facebook race sponsored by Bell Helmets, competing to win a $33,000 grant to develop a trail that's beginner and family friendly.
"Some are hand-built single tracks, some are machine-built trails where a machine goes in and builds jumps and roller and berms," Scott explained.
Though the 2,500 foot trail will just be a blip on the giant trail map, it could mean big things for local business.
"We tend to see more groups and couples, more younger people come, but we can open it up to families," Collins explained. "Which will increase lodging, people shopping at the supermarket, bike shops sporting good stores."
Collins says the sport's surge in popularity is bringing new jobs to Burke. The chamber is looking to open a biking school and a second bike shop.
"Also, it opens the door to provide guided trips not only for mountain bikers but to explore the area for camping and hiking and everything," she explained.
But reaching that new customer base hinges on getting the public to vote. Scott fears without the grant, the project may have to be put on hold.
"We have a lot riding on this grant so we've all got our fingers crossed that we get it," he said.
If Kingdom Trails wins the contest, construction will start sometime in July and should only take a few weeks.