By Mason W. Canales
Killeen Daily Herald
During the summer, Harker Heights' fire marshal rode about 600 miles through Dana Peak Park on a bicycle, but he isn't just joy riding.
During 2009, Fire Marshal Steve Philen, donated a total of 40 hours of volunteer work to clear about six miles worth of hike and bike trails at Dana Peak Park, said Arthur Johnson, Army Corps of Engineers park ranger and volunteer coordinator.
"Steve Philen is one of the guys that we work closely with," Johnson said. "Steve is adamant about the bike trails at Dana Peak."
Philen would wake up early in the mornings and grab some equipment – sometime a mower, sometimes a tractor, and more often then not trimming sheers – then head out to Dana Peak, he said.
Once there, he would work for while clearing tall grass, debris from the 2007 floods, overgrown brush and logs and trimming back branches from the trails, he said. After putting in about an hour out there he would ride.
"(Cleaning) just makes a difference," Philen said about his work. "If we want to have access to (those trails) we have to keep it up," he added.
Philen has used the trails for his leisure since 1993 when he first started riding.
"Dana Peak was the first place I went, that is where I broke in at," he said. "Since then I went from a $99 Huffy to a $2,000 aluminium frame with all the bells and whistles."
His enthusiasm for off-road cycling grew from the trails at Dana Peak and led to cycling on trails all round Texas. But in 2007, rehab from an accident brought Philen back to spending most of cycling time at Dana Peak, and he also decided to start clearing trails.
"I had a bad accident in December 2007, and I have been rehabilitating and decided bicycling was the way to go," Philen said. "When I got out there in May, the trails were really over grown, so I asked the Corps if I could do some work."
The off-road trails provide Philen with a challenge that he could not get at home doing his exercise on machines, he said.
"I definitely prefer it to standing on a treadmill and looking at a wall," Philen said.
Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes are no strangers to volunteer work.
"We get a lot of foot work done through volunteers since the lakes have a lot of land," Johnson said. "There is always a need to get some brush out of the way and some of the erosion cleared."
Johnson doesn't only rely on local volunteers, he recruits people from around the United States.
Johnson has found people willing to stay at lakes for several months so they could volunteer their services, he said.
During 2009, 13,000 hours of volunteers hours have been spent to keep the lakes' parks beautiful and useful, Johnson said.
"The amount of time and effort I put into maintaining the trails doesn't even compare to the use I get out of it," Philen said. "I get use it, so I figure it is worth my effort (to maintain them)."
Contact Mason W. Canales at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7554.