- Associated Press - Sunday, January 22, 2017

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) - As a young boy, Rich Moore couldn’t be peeled off the seat of his bicycle. He fought back a smile recalling an accident at 8 years old that knocked out a number of teeth, but said not even that deterred him from hopping back in the saddle and heading for his next adventure.

The boy has grown, now 51 and living in Jasonville, but his passion for cycling burns as brightly as ever. His fervor for the sport became even more evident when he made the decision to walk away from an 18-year career as a service manager at Premier Homes in Terre Haute to pursue the manager position at Griffin Bike Park in southern Vigo County.

Moore competed against 35 candidates through four rounds of interviews over the course of a few months. For each step in the process he prepared a list of notes and answers to potential questions, but each time brushed them aside and let his heart do the talking.

“It’s such a passion for me,” Moore said when describing the interview process. “The riding, to see little kids out riding. It’s so huge to see someone laughing and hooting because they’re having fun and you know you had a part in that. It was easy to speak from the heart and let them know my thoughts. My passion really shone through, I think.”

Moore was working with a customer when Kara Kish, Vigo County Parks and Recreation Department superintendent, called him to deliver the news.

“I got it,” Moore remembers saying. “But I had to contain my excitement a little bit because I was in a customer’s home. This is a dream come true for me.”

When asked why Moore was chosen to be the newest member of the Vigo parks department and manager of Griffin Bike Park, Kish had three words. “Rich showed up.”

He didn’t show up in the sense that he was present, but instead floored Kish, her staff, the Friends of Griffin Bike Park and David Patterson, executive director of the Terre Haute Visitors and Convention Bureau, through the hiring process with his passion and vision for what the park can, and in his estimation, should become.

What Moore wants the park to become, he said, is a place that becomes synonymous with biking competitions and a place where his passion for cycling can be passed to the next generation of riders.

“I’m big on the kids, I want to see more kids out riding,” Moore said, not fighting back his smile any longer. “I want to get a youth outreach program going, get more kids coming out. Just to see the love I have for the sport. Once you get them going, they’re in. It’s something else.”

Moore is no stranger to starting young and competing at a high level. He began competitive cycling at 16 years old, winning three state championships on his was to a No. 4 national ranking and a berth in the National Championships before an injury sidelined him for the event.

Gene and Dona Griffin had the idea to build the park in 2013 to honor the memory of their son, Dale Griffin, who was killed in Afghanistan in October 2009 while serving in the U.S. Army. Dale and his family enjoyed riding bikes growing up, and his parents could think of no better way remember him and honor his sacrifice.

Gene and Dona then took their idea and pitched it to Kish.

With the green light from the parks department, planning for the bike park moved forward, and Nat Lopes of Hillride Progression Development Group LLC flew to Terre Haute to check out the site.

As Moore tells it, Lopes, a nationally known bicycle park designer, came to the site and “just went walking.” Upon returning from his walk, Lopes asked, “Do you want a park, or a destination?”

With the park planned and plotted, the Friends of Griffin Bike Park formed. Moore was one of the first members and was eventually elected as its chairman.

The friends were responsible for fundraising and building the park with nothing more than donations from the community and numerous work days staffed solely by volunteers. Over 15,556 hours of volunteer work were required to build the more than 16 miles of trails and seven distinct riding areas the park features. Moore put in 951 volunteer hours, or roughly 36.5 days worth of work, good enough for fourth most of anyone who participated, according to a volunteer-hours list kept by the friends group.

“He has been involved since literally day one,” Kish said recalling Moore’s dedication to the project.

The grand opening for the park on Oct. 15 was attended by former Gov. Mike Pence, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett, the Griffin family, Kish, Moore and numerous cycling enthusiasts from across the country, Moore recalled.

“When Gene was speaking, it was tough to hold back tears,” Moore said. “It was great to see what I’ve been working on for three years come to fruition. It was heaven.”

Moore assumed his role on Jan. 3 and said that he and Blake Griffin, Griffin Bike Park maintenance specialist and Dale’s brother, are prepared to hit the ground running and make the park a place riders want to be.

When asked why people should visit Griffin Bike Park, he answered without hesitation.

“It’s not uncommon to see families bring little kids out, and they’ll ride the kids’ trail, and they just graduate up to the harder and harder trail. It’s neat to see the BMX guys come out and ride the jumps, and the whole family is out there in their lawn chairs. There’s picnic areas where you can watch the kids ride. There’s literally something for everyone. Runners, walkers, riders, everybody.”

And then he said, fighting back a smile once more, “And besides, I don’t know how anyone can dislike riding. Because it’s like Robin Williams said, ‘It’s the closest you can get to flying.’”

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Source: (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star, https://bit.ly/2ixDu3S

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Information from: Tribune-Star, https://www.tribstar.com

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