Gypsum moto track a training ground for Outdoor Pro Nationals
Dry Lake open space attracting out-of-town interest
Word-of-mouth reviews, and the motocross riders who follow them, are starting to travel to and from the Dry Lake track in Gypsum.
And in a sport that is based on motorized travel, both can and will travel far.
Born in Pennsylvania and now living in Florida, Sam Greenawalt traveled from California to reach the Gypsum track on Tuesday.
Greenawalt is competing in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship in Lakewood this weekend, and was looking for a proper training ground. He said amid his travels, he was very pleased to discover the Dry Lake Motocross Park.
“It’s in a really beautiful area and the layout is really fun,” Greenawalt said on Tuesday. “I’ve ridden everything from a little turn track in the grass all the way to the best tracks in the U.S., and this is definitely up there with something that I would want to come back to.”
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Greenawalt learned of the track from his friend Austin Coon of Avon.
“I knew he was coming to Lakewood, so I said, ’You gotta stop by and ride with me, I’ve got a pretty sweet place for us,’” Coon said. “I said hop off at the exit at Gypsum and you’re there.”
Although he’s been living in Avon for a couple of years, Coon just learned of the Dry Lake track a month ago.
Spencer Ball with Rocky Mountain Sport Riders said more and more riders like Coon have been discovering the track in recent months, which is something that will need to continue to happen if the track plans to be successful in its operation. Being a new attraction in Eagle County, Ball said the track’s operators have learned the hard way that running a motocross operation takes support from everyone who would ever hope to enjoy such a recreational amenity in Colorado.
“It’s really expensive — the diesel, all the heavy equipment — we have one employee and the rest of us are all volunteers,” Ball said. “It’s just a ton of work and machinery and pumps and holding ponds and generators. It’s a really expensive endeavor, and we’re completely reliant on volunteers, donations, memberships and day passes.”
Ball said in an effort to get the word out, the club is currently offering a special on registration, which is the first step to accessing the track. Annual registration is normally $20 but will be $5 until June 15. The registration takes care of your insurance waiver and allows you to buy annual passes or day passes access to the track.
“The membership dues go not only to the MX park, but also just help keep the club moving along with expenses for tools and everything else,” Ball said.
After a decades-long search for a place to build a track in Eagle County, Paul Miller with Rocky Mountain Sport Riders helped complete a deal to lease the Dry Lake property from Eagle County Open Space, and the track opened in 2018. Miller was battling brain cancer at the time, and died less than a year later.
Ball spoke at Miller’s memorial, saying he calculated Miller to have put around 4,000 hours into local dirt biking efforts in Eagle County.
“And there may be another 4,000 to 10,000 hours of just riding around on his dirt bike too,” Ball said.
Paul Miller’s son Windham Miller was at the Dry Lake Motocross Park to greet Greenawalt on Tuesday. Windham said it was nice to see the pro rider out on the track.
“Word’s getting out, for sure,” Windham said with a smile.
Tough niche to fill
The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship is a 12-event series, and Saturday’s Lakewood event is the second on the calendar for this summer. It’s the only professional motocross program in the U.S. sanctioned by American Motorcyclist Association Pro Racing, attracting the top talent from around the country and taking place on the best tracks in the U.S.
Greenawalt has been competing in the series since 2018; after Colorado he plans to compete in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Washington, New York, Maryland and Indiana.
“It’s a grind, for sure. … That’s the hardest part about it, I’m going places that, a lot of times, I’ve never been to,” Greenawalt said. “In between the races you’ve got to make it where you’re going, and you’ve still got to get in all your riding, your practicing and your training.”
Greenawalt said in his travels, he doesn’t see many new tracks being built.
“There’s not often a brand new track, it’s tough to get them in because you’ve got to deal with noise and dust. I know there’s all kinds of problems with having a facility,” Greenawalt said.
At the Dry Lake track, however, the noise and dust are the least of the concerns. The track is located 4 miles out of the residential area of Gypsum and buffered by mountains on all sides.
Even the Eagle County Open Space department, which is not usually an off-highway vehicle friendly operation, had to acknowledge in looking at its property index that the 181-acre flat parcel of the Dry Lake property could make for a good motocross track. At the park’s 2018 opening, Paul Miller said “it wasn’t long ago that we got a call from (former Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll) and Toby Sprunk (former Eagle County Open Space director), and we came out here to check out the land. … We were walking around, and Toby’s comment was ‘The Open Space Committee really isn’t in the business of providing opportunities for OHV use, but if there ever was a parcel of land that seemed appropriate for that, this is it.’”
The track fills a niche — Ball says in the years to come he expects the track to garner a reputation as a higher-elevation, lower-temperature option for the hot summer months, as it’s the only public track between the metro areas of Grand Junction and Denver on the I-70 corridor in Colorado.
Ball said he was pleased, but not surprised to hear that Greenawalt was using the track as a tune-up facility before his big race on Saturday in Lakewood at the Thunder Valley track.
“(The Thunder Valley track) is the only facility in reach that is better than what we have here,” Ball said. “There’s nothing in the High Country that has anything like this.”
A valid critique
Before finding the Dry Lake track, Greenawalt said his knowledge of the Western Slope east of Grand Junction was as follows:
“There’s a lot of trails out here, a lot of places to ride, but not a Motocross track,” he said.
When he heard about the Dry Lake track, “I didn’t know what to expect, but we drove up here and I was like ‘This is awesome,'” Greenawalt said. “This place has it all. It’s got big jumps, little jumps, whoops, rollers, tight corners, big wide-open corners, you want a good variety of everything and this place has it, I’m impressed.”
Greenawalt also said the high-elevation training will be beneficial in preparing for Saturday’s pro race in Lakewood, which is a higher elevation race than the others on the circuit.
“It’s awesome, especially coming from Florida,” he said. “I’m loving it.”
But if he had a criticism to offer, it was that the track was a little dry.
“It looked like it was going to rain a little, too,” Greenawalt said Tuesday. “It didn’t happen, but I can’t complain.”
Ball said he knew that critique would be coming.
“Our water truck broke down on Thursday,” Ball said.
Ball also said the clock is running in their efforts to get a new water truck. At the end of June, the Rocky Mountain Sport Riders plan to host a Rocky Mountain Enduro Circuit race at the track, which will be the club’s first big event on the Dry Lake open space.
“We pitched it to the town of Gypsum and got a special permit from the BLM to allow camping for one night,” Ball said. “There’s going to be 200 to 300 riders up at the Dry Lake park on June 26 and 27 for a race event.”
Greenawalt said he feels Ball’s pain in dealing with all that comes up in operating a track, but he also predicts a solid future for Dry Lake as a motocross operation.
“2020 was huge for outdoor recreation. Dirt bikes are sold out everywhere, so this is a great time to have a place like this,” Greenawalt said from the track Tuesday. “Products are hard to get, bikes are hard to get, and that’s a good thing.”
The Dry Lake Motocross Park is running a promotion until June 15; annual registration is normally $20 but will be marked down to $5. After registering, daily passes are $20/day and annual passes at $275/year. Family season passes are also available. Registration and pass sales are best done online prior to arrival at RMSRCO.com but can also be purchased via cellphone at the gate.