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Eagle Scout installs bike rescue stations in Annadel

Campbell Potter installed bike rescue stations in Annadel State Park for his Eagle Scout project.

JOHN BURGESS/Press Democrat
Published: Monday, December 30, 2013 at 6:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 9:18 a.m.

Campbell Potter knows what it's like to bust a tire in the middle of a trail, and to carry a heavy bicycle for miles in dwindling light just to get out of a park.

In his last five or so years of mountain biking at Annadel State Park, Potter, 18, has broken five bike frames, busted about 30 derailleurs, and “tacoed” — or warped — several wheels.

“I'm pretty accident-prone,” Potter said. “I know what it's like to carry your bike 2 miles. It's hard on your back. It's not fun. We call it the 'walk of shame.'”

Having done that walk more times than he'd care to admit, Potter decided to make it easier on himself and the other riders who frequent Annadel's 40-plus miles of trails.

So he built and installed two “Bike Rescue Stations,” equipped with a bicycle pump, tire irons, a crescent wrench, an Allen wrench and screwdrivers, all attached by a steel cable to a wooden box he made with friends in his home woodshop.

The bike tools were donated by The Bike Peddler, a Santa Rosa store, and materials for the box were donated by Friedman's Home Improvement.

Passing bikers often leave spare tire tubes and snacks like Clif Bars and water bottles in the boxes.

“It's kind of a community thing,” Potter said. “It's a give-and-take system with all the bikers.”

Potter built six bike rescue stations in June as part of an Eagle Scout project. The first two were installed at the Cobblestone Trailhead just off Channel Drive and at the Rough-Go Trailhead, Potter said. Four more boxes are ready to be installed.

The boxes, about 2.5 feet tall and 2 feet wide, are designed to blend into the environment, Potter said.

“It's a nice, altruistic thing to have in the park,” said Neill Fogarty, supervising ranger at Annadel. “Since Annadel has so many mountain bike users, it's a great program to have. And it doesn't cost the state parks anything.”

Potter's rescue stations are part of a trend in Sonoma County's bicycling community, where riders are pooling and sharing resources. There were two bike rescue stations in Annadel before Potter embarked on his project to expand the resources for riders.

The road biking community has a similar give-and-take system, with buckets of tools stationed on Trinity Road near the border with Napa County and at the Jimtown Store in Alexander Valley.

The Trek Store in Santa Rosa plans to install a “cycle aid station” outside its store later this month, said store owner Bret Gave. Before, riders who needed repairs but didn't want to pay for the labor would work inside his shop. Once the station is installed, they'll be able to work on their bikes outside.

“People can come by and fill up their tires and work on their bike any time they want,” Gave said.

The rescue stations at Annadel were a relief to Kevin Pilar, 18, who needed the resources late one afternoon.

“I had an incident in the park where it was getting pretty dark, and I got a flat,” said Pilar, a graduate of Cardinal Newman who now attends the University of Nevada, Reno because of its bike team. He didn't have all the supplies he needed but was able to repair his tire, thanks to one of the stations.

Potter, a graduate of Maria Carrillo High School and student at Santa Rosa Junior College, works as a car mechanic in Sonoma. He taught himself to repair bicycles by watching YouTube videos, reading repair manuals and by simple trial and error.

“Bikes are like cars. Everything breaks eventually,” Potter said.

While Potter's bike repair tally is high, his injury rate isn't much better. He's broken arms, ribs and toes as he careened down the mountain doing tricks and jumps as part of the NorCal High School Cycling League.

“I'm famous on my team for breaking my bike,” Potter said. “It's part of the sport. If you're pushing yourself, you will fall.”

By making the rescue stations, Potter also wanted to combat the perception that mountain bikers are careless and damage the environment. He's concerned about illegal trails created by mountain bikers at the park, which outnumber official trails by two or three times.

“I wanted to give back to the park, because I ride here all the time,” Potter said. “It's nice to be able to come from school when you've been in a classroom all day, and in 10 minutes you can be in the middle of the park.”

On the trail, Tim Granshaw, 40, of London, set out for a ride on a sunny day and was surprised to see the rescue station.

“This is a fantastic idea,” Granshaw said. “There are a lot of people who end up in a lurch. ... There are more times than I care to count that I've been totally bonked and needed something to eat. It's kind of a pay-it-forward thing.”

Staff Writer Clark Mason contributed to this story.

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