Friends of PTD, take a closer look at one of our OG trail builders Dave Renko.
PTD: How did you get started and what made you want to create trails?
DR: I grew up on a homestead south, of Devil’s Den, near Chester AR. Taking walks and hiking was part of everyday life. Upon getting my first MTB in 1989, a Cannondale fully rigid, I quickly began utilizing and improving those tracks from my childhood. The zeal continued in Fayetteville through the early 90’s as a passionate group began improvements and social building on Markham Hill, Mount Kessler and Mount Sequoyah. In 1997 I helped form and was the first president of the Ozark Off-Road Cyclists, Arkansas’ premier MTB advocacy group. Soon after, Tim Scott, a resident ranger at Devil’s Den offered the club it’s first legitimate advocacy opportunities. “The writing was on the wall” in 2000 I was employed by Eastin Outdoors, Arkansas’ first Trail Building Company. In 2002, I started my own trail building business, “Sweet Trails” and in 2007 joined forces with PTD.
PTD: What does a day in the field look like for you?
DR: “A bed of roses.” There is always the standard day to day grind of sustainability and safety protocols for gear and the crew. But once on the ground, despite any logistical and communication challenges the rewards of working the landscape are still invigorating as ever. The earth provides an unmatched palette. I am fortunate to be part of such an expressively dynamic creative process.
PTD: What are some of the setbacks or hurdles to overcome building trails?
DR: Outside of weather, logistical and financial elements, understanding “purpose and objective”. These are achieved through a culmination of factors. First, being realistic about what any parcel of land can host; applying the mantra of “balance, fit and harmony.” Clearly identifying and understanding the “desires and needs of the client.” Lastly zeroing in on the physical and logistical challenges and creating the “intended user experience.”
PTD: Favorite project you’ve worked on?
DR: Tough to zero in on one. If I have to give a #1, the western coast of Mexico. Literally building above an 80 foot cliff as the waves crashed below, eating lime and chili coated mangos picked from the jungle by local “corridor-clearing” compadres. But the most rewarding projects are still the continuing Arkansas legacy trail work.
PTD: Any advice for someone looking to get involved with this industry?
DR: Know right away there are two types of trail builders. Those, mostly young bucks, who occupy a few years of their life with a hardworking job, and us “sickos” who have it in our blood. You won’t know which one you are until you try it! Super hard work! Incredible tangible physical results and revelatory psychological rewards.
PTD: Lastly, tell us a little bit about your music background.
DR: My first instrument was the mandolin. I took up saxophone at the age of 11. I immediately began copping licks from albums. Soon after my mother and father bought an electric guitar and base, we soon began rocking the woods. On a whim my dad bought a record store in Fort Smith, AR. We left the homestead, moved in the back of the store and started a family band. Exiting high school I was fortunate enough to join the Cate Brothers a nationally renowned Arkansas touring band. I have lived out boyhood dreams for the past 40 years traveling the country performing and recording music with some of the finest humans on the planet. I still play regularly, although trail building is my primary focus.
I would be remiss if I didn’t punctuate…… I live in Eureka Springs with my wife Lori and two lovely daughters Mia and Riley (our best work!!). All three are the ultimate inspiration in my life.