One dedicated rider
Seeing a girl ride her bike around the neighborhood recently was a thrill for Amy Agapito. Why the fuss over such an ordinary, everyday occurrence?
While the sight may seem commonplace, the truth is the girl may not have learned how to get around on two wheels without Agapito’s prompting.
A member of the nonprofit group Grand Valley Bikes, Agapito worked to bring a bicycling demonstration to students at the nearby Tope Elementary School. She was surprised at how many fourth graders didn’t know how to ride bicycles, but one girl was especially fearful of learning. That happened to be the same girl Agapito later saw tooling around the block.
“I knew she learned to ride a bike that day in school,” Agapito said, delighted.
Agapito, 43, with big, blue eyes and a wide, inviting smile, may be the biggest “unsung hero” of the Grand Valley’s bicycling movement, said Jen Taylor, a board member for the trail building and mountain biking advocacy group Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association. The group, commonly known as COPMOBA, quietly has been working behind the scenes with local agencies for years, creating a world-class mountain biking mecca in Grand Junction’s backyard.
And, the word is finally getting out that the Grand Valley is the place to ride, thanks in no small part to Agapito’s contributions.
“She’s at every trail work day, every meeting, every event wearing the COPMOBA hat,” Taylor said of Agapito. “She’s just always got the cycling community’s best interest at heart.”
Agapito, who now works as a coordinator for the organization to boost its presence through its website and events, has had her hand in some aspect of COPMOBA for years. She’s served as a board member and volunteer and lately as an employee.
Having an idea to create a trail or a network of trails is one thing, but having the wherewithal to get a project to completion is another matter entirely. That’s a trait Agapito has mastered, said her husband, Dave Agapito.
“She has a good ability for the procedure,” he said. “She has the big-picture idea, knowing you have to jump through those hurdles and all the people you have to go through.”
Many of the trail networks around the Grand Valley are located on Bureau of Land Management lands, which has required long-standing relationships and solid communication among public and private agencies, not to mention patience as plans wind through the federal agency.
“She stays in touch with the BLM and makes a real effort to communicate with us,” said Chris Pipkin, outdoor recreation planner for the BLM. “She tries to see what constraints we have and runs things by us before they go out.”
Amy and Dave met — go figure — through mountain biking, as they shared the same group of friends who also enjoyed the sport. They’ve been married 14 years and have a 9-year-old daughter.
But since the couple met, a sea change has occurred in the quality and number of trails now available on local public lands.
For instance, years ago, mountain bikers’ only options were to ride on jeep roads, with riders often climbing alongside 4x4 vehicles as they picked their way over boulders. Now BLM policies in some recreation areas dictate separate spaces for motorized and non-motorized users.
Amy grew up in Nashville, Tenn., but she and her brother spent summers with their aunt and uncle in Massachusetts.
After graduating from Vanderbilt University, she set out to land a career. As a budding television reporter she was handed some sage advice. A professor told that she’d first have to work in a smaller market, but that didn’t mean she had to work somewhere with a poor quality of life.
Colorado beckoned, and she moved to Estes Park in 1991.
“My mom always knew I would live somewhere far away,” Agapito said, laughing.
She then found work at KJCT, and over time, “I did everything except director,” she said.
After moving to the Grand Valley, she almost immediately found mountain biking thrilling, but she wanted to get more involved with promoting it.
“As soon as I started riding I realized these trails don’t build themselves,” she said.
Indeed, partnerships between COPMOBA and the BLM and other agencies have given mountain biking an edge in the Grand Valley, as word of the quality of local trail systems and the area’s lengthy riding season catches hold. Estimates indicate mountain biking tourism infuses $20 million a year into the local economy, one visual indicator being the hordes of tourists driving around with bikes on top of their cars.
Personally, Agapito has helped build Moore Fun and Mack Ridge, trails on 18 Road, as well as coordinate workers to help on any number of new trails. You’ll surely see her — and she’ll invite you to help build trails — on the new Three Sisters property, a 130-acre section near the Lunch Loop off Monument Road. While Mesa Land Trust is still fundraising to pay for the parcel, COPMOBA and other agencies have pledged support to create a trail network there.
It appears Agapito’s love of trail building already has been passed on to the next generation. Since her daughter turned 4, she’s been a constant at trail building days.
“She loves to come even if she doesn’t help,” Amy said. “She considers herself a member of COPMOBA.”