That Dam Ride has been canceled for 2014 due to declining ridership and support for the event.
That Dam Ride
By Judy Marshall
S omeone once said to me, “if nothing changes, well then – nothing changes”. Recognizing that an event with so much tradition, longevity and pure fun must come to an end is never easy, but perhaps we simply must see it as another transition in the ongoing evolution of our Trail. Our mission has been to continuously improve our Trail and Trail events. So now it is that we bid a fond farewell to “That Dam Ride”, making room for new and other exciting events. Stay tuned! Nearly 15 years ago, when a section of the Trail was finished and became continuous from Greenock to Confluence, a group of volunteers began to believe that it would be great fun to have a bike ride of the entire length of this portion of the trail. And so the idea of what would become “That Dam Ride” was conceived. Mike Bilcsik (a community organizer from Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area) and I (President of the MYTC) decided to join forces and spearhead the project to make it happen. It would be a ride that would start in Greenock and travel to Confluence, with an overnight stop in this town bordering Somerset and Fayette counties. This would be followed by a return trip to Greenock on the next day– 80 miles total. As the excitement grew, Mike explored several locations and found a campground at the base of the Confluence Dam that would serve as an ideal campsite for participants following Day 1 of the ride. Unfortunately, the campground was totally booked by Boy Scout troops throughout the summer and once summer ended, the US Army Corps of Engineers closed the facilities and camping was prohibited. Mike was able to convince the Corps that allowing use of the facilities beyond their current ‘season’ would help the Trail fulfill part of its community mission. What a victory! That hurdle completed, we knew we could use the campsite at the Dam to reflect the perfect name for the ride and we started to plan the logistics and begin advertising for a Fall ride in 1999. The first ride was a huge success for a group of 104 enthusiastic bikers. For the entrance fee of $39 dollars, participants received a shirt, food and water at rest stops, lunch, dinner and overnight camping. Gear was transported in a station wagon and the dinner at the conclusion of Day 1 was prepared by the local Boy Scout Troop that first year. Follow-up questionnaires suggested that length-of-ride options be developed. And so the dimensions of the Ride changed. An option to ride to the campground from Connellsville (shorter mileage) was added. And then in 2002, the ‘Tour de Confluence’ began. This was an easy, shorter ride for participants through the river town of Confluence. It was led by biking enthusiasts who shared historical information about the town as well as the Great Allegheny Passage. Each year the number of riders increased; at its peak, the Ride was attracting more than 350 women, men, children and families. The transport station wagon was replaced with two vans. The campsite remained the same and musical entertainment was added. Because of the number of participants, other nonprofit organizations joined in to provide services. An ongoing highlight throughout the years was the spaghetti dinner at the Confluence Trinity Lutheran Church. After setting up camp and taking a hot shower, participants would bike or walk to the church for a delicious hot meal served by church members. An annual treat, much anticipated!
Our role as organizers continued. We made a commitment to the community of Trail users to provide rest stops, organize the campsite, secure the entertainment, interact with the various non-profit organizations in the towns we biked through, and provide the safety parameters to make this an
exceptional ride. Countless MYTC volunteers made it all happen! The specific program beneficiary of the monies from the Ride was MYTC Trail maintenance. Equipment was purchased, benches and bridges were built and shelters were constructed with much of the money generated from proceeds. Within two years of the start of the Race, we started to acquire corporate support and that continued throughout the history of the Race. Our major corporate sponsor has always been Mr. Robert Levin of Levin Furniture. Not only did he provide the capital support but he often brought 15 – 20 friends to accompany him on the Ride. But times change…with the opening of the Great Allegheny Passage, riders are now more interested in completing the entire length of the trail rather than just a section. Additionally, several for-profit companies are organizing their own rides. Both of these have contributed to a decrease in participants in “That Dam Ride” so the decision has been made that this enjoyable event be put to rest. Those of you who have spent many a fine fall week-end on this ride will undoubtedly miss the fun and camaraderie it generated. But, as said earlier, without change, nothing changes. Watch for new events that are sure to appear on the horizon… and thank you for years of support!