AUSTIN -- For many, the trails in Austin are a staple for the city's identity. However, do you know how they are built, cleaned and kept safe? Most of this is actually done by a nonprofit built with volunteers doing behind-the-scenes work for everyone.
The Austin Ridge Riders Mountain Bike Club currently has about 500 members who ride weekly all around Austin. There are many different programs and events for people of all ages and skill sets.
One of the main parts of the program is its members' dedication to preserving the trails they use regularly. Charlie Riou is the president of the organization, as he got into mountain bike riding about 20 to 25 years ago.
"It is such a great experience, especially getting outdoors," Riou said.
Around that same time, Riou also got into trail building -- which made him a perfect fit to join the Ridge Riders. The nonprofit works on building trails and then cleaning them weekly.
"We develop natural-surface, single-track trails," Riou said. "People see us working and they go, 'Oh, are you a city employee? Are you a county employee? A state park employee?' All the natural surface trail maintenance and building is being done by volunteers."
The Ridge Riders have built many of the trails in parks you have likely heard of -- Walnut Creek, Muleshoe Bend, Slaughter Creek, Reimers Ranch, Pace Bend, Reivelle Peak Ranch, Lake Georgetown and even at Pedernales Falls State Park.
"If it wasn't for the volunteers, the trails would suffer a lot," Riou said.
Alberto Perez is the unit manager for the North District Parks with the Parks and Recreation Department, and he said the city of Austin does in fact have its own team cleaning parks.
"They do all the ground litter and they pick up all the trash," Perez said. "They do a lot of general maintenance on the grounds."
When it comes to our trails, though, his department leans heavily on the Ridge Riders.
"They do quite a lot of the legwork for us because we don't have enough employees to go through all of the hundreds of miles of trails that we have," Perez said. "It doesn't matter whether you're a biker or dog walker or just a regular hiker that's coming out to the park, you'll see them out there."
Even though Riou would like to see more resources put towards trails, he said working on them regularly isn't a chore -- it's an investment for himself, his fellow riders and everyone who wants to get outdoors.
"It's really important for us to think about the entire community and to realize we're sharing a resource and just to work together," Riou said.
Not only does this nonprofit work to clean up these trails, they also act as an educational group by teaching people how they are supposed to ride on the trails and share it with other users.
If you want to learn more about the Ridge Riders, you can go to austinridgeriders.com.