by Sean Innella
Jon Posner is an avid mountain biker and friend of Patapsco Valley State Park. He is also a founder of the Maryland Interscholastic Cycling League.
Posner grew up in Patapsco’s backyard but did not discover his love for mountain biking until he went to college. After a capture-the-flag accident, he had to have his ACL replaced and was directed to ride bicycles during the rehab process. He soon found some friends at school who would find and ride trails with him, and from there, there was no looking back.
In 2005, Posner and his family moved to Catonsville. At that point, he was a regular user of the trails and cites that the proximity to Patapsco was a large factor in the move.
Posner is deeply entrenched in the sport of mountain biking and read about the NorCal High School Cycling League, “I thought “man that’s awesome, I can’t wait to see that come to where I live””. Soon after, he discovered that a racing buddy of his was starting a racing league in Pennsylvania through the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). After speaking with his friend, he decided it was time to bring a league to Maryland.
Posner built a team of fellow mountain biking enthusiasts and applied to start a league through NICA in Maryland. They were awarded a league in October of 2017 and just finished their Inaugural season this past Fall.
The Maryland Interscholastic Cycling League is open to all Maryland students from grades 6-12 and consists of over 400 coaches and student-athletes. If the national trend for other leagues holds true, that number is about to grow rapidly.
Teams are both school-based or regionally based and you can also start a team of your own. The competitions span an entire weekend with pre-ride and non-competitive events on Saturdays and races on Sundays. Races last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half based on age and while the courses are given a careful safety inspection, they provide a fun challenge to riders of all skill levels.
The first season of the league was a great success and has introduced many kids to the sport, “one of the most beautiful things about this program is that around 80% of participants are new to mountain biking”, says Posner. Posner believes that this league helps kids develop critical life skills such as the development of a healthier lifestyle, time management skills, social skills, and leadership skills: “We want to make sure that they come off of the race course with good stories to tell, a finish under their belts, their confidence boosted, and getting an endorphin rush.”
When Posner is not fully entrenched in the cycling league, he is heavily involved with Patapsco. In addition to being an extremely skilled rider and a donor to Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park, he was instrumental in the planning and creation of the Rockburn Skills Park. He has also adopted a few trails and loves being able to help others enjoy the park, “It’s been a huge privilege to get involved with the park, when you feel like you have some role in providing the experience that people are having, that you also go to have, that’s very gratifying”.
When discussing the park, Posner claims that it has become an important part of his day-to-day life, “a month has not gone by since I was 20, where I have not been in the park a handful of times. The trail system in Patapsco is so good and challenging and has such a wide range. I personally feel like I can ride there for another two decades without getting tired of it.” When asked if there is one thing he would say to those thinking about riding in the park or joining the Maryland Interscholastic Cycling league, he says, “the experience of riding a bike through woods on a really fun and challenging trail is second to none”.
To find out more about the Maryland Interscholastic Cycling League and NICA, go to marylandmtb.org.
by Sean Innella
Patapsco Profiles is a new series in which we will introduce you to a friend of Patapsco Valley State Park and discover what the park means to them. Our first profile is on Bill Wheeler, a board member of the Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park.
Bill is an IT professional who first discovered Patapsco through friends at work. They told him about the park and how they biked through the trails, so Bill bought a cheap mountain bike and joined them. Once Bill experienced the challenge of the trails and the attachment to nature he was hooked, “The first time I went back there, I remember thinking, “Wow, this is crazy, I didn’t even know this stuff was back here”. Since that day, Bill has been going back to Patapsco time and time again, whether it is on a bike or just exploring by foot.
Bill says that Patapsco Valley State Park even played a role in the decision to move to Ellicott City, “My wife and I saw a home that was right off Ilchester Road. When we realized how close we could be to the park, and what that meant, it was kind of a no-brainer”.
He says that new discoveries in Patapsco happen regularly. “If I go back there today, there’s a good chance that if I decide to go on a trail I don’t go on much, I see stuff that I haven’t seen in the 20+ years I have been going back there.”
Not only does Bill enjoy the park, but he is also an active board member of the Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park (FPVSP). “FPVSP does a lot, we raise money to build new trails, maintain the park, and do anything we can to promote and preserve the park”.
An advocate of the park, Bill likes to share how special the park is to those that are not familiar with it, “It’s an amazing place with something for everybody, you don’t have to be a hiker, runner, or biker to enjoy what the park has to offer. They even have days where they do historical hikes in the park that are very interesting. The history of the park is amazing”.
Patapsco Valley State Park’s history is what truly makes the park special to Bill, “The history of the park is amazing and the fact that it still has that goodness. It hasn’t been plowed up and developed for homes and how it has been maintained and it has had a role in the history of the U.S. When you go up and see where the Captain John Smith marker is, you can just go back and imagine you are Captain John Smith and look over the valley and realize you are standing right where he was. That’s really cool”.