All Photos: Jason Eichorst
Most people know Tanner Park as the ultimate haven for dirty mutts to frolic about and shit on everything before their owners get to slam a 12-pack and shoot the tube on a hot summer day, but most people don’t ride BMX. For well over a decade, there has been an array of BMX dirt jumps, rhythm sections, burms and snake lines hidden amongst the trees inside Tanner Park. They are a dirt masterpiece sculpted from the ground up by some of Salt Lake City’s most skilled and creative hands. The Tanner trails have seen many a rider and had many a caretaker, but it’s within the past eight years that its most notable trail masters have emerged. Armed with a 16-inch pizza, a box of hot wings, an 18-pack and a voice recorder, I took a night to learn about the past, present and future of the Tanner Park Trails with two of Tanner’s most radical care takers Cameron Wood and Greg Ingersoll.
The two of them met nearly 10 years ago while hauling buckets of water up and down cliff sides working on getting the jumps dialed in. It took them a good five years of slamming, mis-shaping and under building before they finally mastered the craft of carving out lines and accurately gapping jumps from take-off to landing. Wood said, “It’s more of an art form than BMX. We wouldn’t even care if we were riding them. We would still have just as much fun shaping them and making a masterpiece.” It’s a full-time job filling in ruts, watering down the jumps and re-packing the dirt. People don’t understand how much time and effort goes into keeping the trails in good working order. People constantly let their scraggily hounds and little kids run amuck all over the trails destroying the lips and landings of the jumps. “It honestly sucks bad when you’re stoked to go ride the trails because they were good two days ago then you go down there and they are haggered,” Wood said. Even some riders don’t give the trails the respect they deserve. Accustomed to city-operated skate parks and mommy always there to whip their ass, they spend hours ripping up the trails having a blast then leave with out putting in work. “Some days you don’t even get to ride because someone had a blast on your time. All they need to do is water, square up the jumps and leave the trails in good condition so they are awesome when people come to ride them,” said Ingersoll. By no means are Wood and Ingersoll claiming the trails to be their own, the trails belong to everyone. They just want people to respect what is there by not digging or tearing down jumps, packing out their trash and keeping it natural, leaving man-made rails and other obstacles out of the park. Rip it, ride it, love it, Due to the work Wood, Ingersoll and many of their friends have put in over the years, the dirt trails have more than doubled in size and numerous new lines have been added, including Skims Milk, Jungle Surfer and the most recent work in progress, Bodegas (not for the faint of heart, keep it cool running through this line otherwise your going to get paid). Moving dirt isn’t the only thing going on at the trails. During the frigid winter season when the dirt is frozen and nobody can ride, Wood and Ingersoll scour the land looking for dead logs to use as fencing, helping keep human erosion to a minimum. It’s taken them two years to get it going, but there is now a solid fence lining the perimeter of the trails. They have also come up with a genius idea to get water into and around the trails by using an irrigation farming technique that diverts water from an upper stream. This has allowed for easier, more efficient maintenance and shaping. However, that’s not the only benefit coming from the irrigation system. Flooding the land has allowed massive amounts of vegetation to re-grow, beautifying the trails and the surrounding land, which has also brought more animals back providing them with food and shelter to thrive on.
Re-vegetating the park has become a massive concern for the city — so much that they recently stepped in threatening all park users from even being in the park due to the massive amounts of destruction they cause to the plants and animals. Wood and Ingersoll weren’t about to let such a serious threat pass by without taking action. They spread the word throughout the BMX community and rallied together nearly 80 riders who mobbed up to the capital to let their voices be heard. The city was absolutely stunned when they saw the massive pile of bikes stacked on the capital steps. They may have known the trails existed, but they had no idea what an enormous subculture was built around them. Since that first rally, Cameron has become the representative for the Outsiders crew, attending three more city meetings with numerous other city patrons, park users and local shop owner, Eddie Buckley, of 5050 BMX. They’ve discussed whether the park should be an on- or off-leash dog park, how much land people are allowed to walk upon, whether bikes will still be allowed and possible ways to re-populate the plant and animal life. “The city wants you to be involved. They don’t understand what goes on in the park and how valuable it is to people. It’s all about letting your voice be heard so places like this don’t die out,” Wood said. The city has already taken Wood and Ingersoll’s natural log fencing idea and applied it throughout the park to help contain all of the dogs and their owners. Perhaps they will wise up even further and realize that Wood and Ingersoll have also come up with an answer to repopulating the plant life.
The future for the Tanner Trails looks bright. Wood and Ingersoll aren’t about to slow down with upkeep and expansion of the trails. They are constantly thinking up more efficient ways to maintain the trails year-round and coming up with crazy inventive ways to keep riding the trails even when they are covered in snow. Last year, their friend Matt Beringer dialed in a ski bike prototype that they spent all winter pumping lines and floating over some of the smaller tabletops. Wood will undoubtedly keep rallying at city meetings’ forcing them to listen to everything the BMX culture has to say. There is even a little talk of getting a Tanner Trails website going to help spread the word and show people all the positive things coming out of the trails. If you’ve got the balls and the respect, ride Tanner till you get a blue grove, eat dirt and spill some fucking blood.