Lakes Area BMX has shown an affinity for community involvement. A nonprofit organization, the track, races and concessions are run off the work of volunteer hours; hours that have been forced to increase due to property damage as Lakes Area BMX prepares for the season to start April 31, sending them a bit off-track.
“We’ve been hit pretty bad the past couple weeks with damage to our property buildings and it definitely hurts,” said track director, Justin Barnhart. “In the past three weeks alone we’ve lost a 270-foot drag that we need for the course that I had to replace ... Some how they managed to get it out of our fencing. We also lost a computer from our tower where we do our broadcasting of all races on our website and without that computer we have to figure out another way before our races begin to broadcast.
“And then just this past week (between Monday and Tuesday) another attempt to break into our concession stand building — which we are working so hard at rebuilding — has happened.
“We’ve had a lot of people help us out and all the work we do out here is volunteer performed so it continues to become increasingly frustrating especially with the (race) season right around the corner.”
Tall fences gate the track that draws upwards of 300 racers to the course nestled in Barrows Township, just south of Brainerd. And while the area may seem partially secluded, Barnhart admits that issues with theft and damage have been around as long as Lakes Area BMX has, 29 years.
“This is our third location, moving from Memorial Park then to the corner of (Minnesota State Highway) 18 and (Minnesota State Highway) 25 and now to here in Barrows for the past five years,” said Barnhart, who has been track director since the recent move to Barrows. “And even at those places, the buildings were hit a few times, where people broke in and stole little stuff. But they didn’t have the new building with steel reinforcements like we do now. It’s amazing how much more secure our building here is and yet they manage to get away with expensive items and do more damage.”
Upgrading the concession stand — Lakes Area BMX’s only area of profit, with money earned used to build the track — to abide by the Minnesota Department of Health standards began this past summer. Barnhart said damage to framework, door and hardware on the new concession windows costs around $300 alone.
“It doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you’re trying to redo everything and get it ready for the season, it sets us back in more ways than just financially, too,” said Barnhart, whose wife Jenny and four sons — Drake, 17, Dallas, 16, Tommy, 13, and Noah, 10 — are all actively involved in both racing and setting up and repairing the track. “We’ve been lucky to have so many great people help us out with so many things because this is a fixture in this community, especially with this sport sticking around for the long haul ... Even including (BMX racing) in the Olympics now.
“It would be nice to have people respect it as much as our riders and volunteers do, too.”
And with Lakes Area BMX motto, “keeping kids on the right track” Barnhart said he hopes others can start living up to that same theme.
“Our riders have vested so much in to this place, as has this community,” Barnhart said. “When things like this happen they get frustrated, too.
“It’s made for the community by the community, let’s treat it like that.”