From teaching skiing in Utah to recycling in Antarctica
December 26, 2014
It’s a cold windswept December day when Bob Radke, and his sidekick Boomer the Dog, bike into Willow Creek Park. Not unusual: if Bob’s not on skis, he’s on his bike, and often both in the same day. Boomer, well, he just runs alongside. Local trails for Bob aren’t just fun, and a convenience; they’ve become a passion as well as his livelihood.
From the windswept mountains of Casper, Wyoming, Bob Radke decided it was time for something different, and the urge to ski and bike brought him to Park City in the 1980s. "I came here to ski 26 years ago," he says, "but ended up staying instead of moving on. I feel lucky to live here."
Putting his degree from the University of Wyoming in education and earth science to practical use, he spent his first summers with highway survey crews on the U.S. 40 realignment. "Those were long, hot days with a sledgehammer," says Radke. Always involved with people-powered transportation, he spent 13 years at the Park City Mountain Resort’s ski school, and a few summers at Jan’s Mountain Outfitters in the bike shop. Then another continent beckoned.
With his wife Wendy Wolfe, an ICU nurse, Bob headed south … way south, to Antarctica in 1996. He was responsible for all of the recycling efforts at the McMurdo Station (population 1,000), since all waste generated "on the ice" has to be removed every year. "We were able to recycle 65 percent of our waste," he says. "It was very successful."
For the next five southern summers they would spend 20 weeks on the white continent, a place like nowhere else. On one C130 flight over volcanic Mt. Erebus, he was able to look down into the molten crater; fire and ice. "There’s a saying down there," he says. "The first year you’re there for the adventure, the second for the money. The third and following years, you’re there because you don’t fit in anywhere else!"
A year at a desk job back home Park City proved that his future was meant to be spent outdoors, and he hired on with Alpine Trails, founded by Mountain Trails Foundation creator Troy Duffin. Bob helped build sections of the Rail Trail and the Mid-mountain Trail, groomed ski trails, and maintained existing ones.
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In 2003 he moved to Basin Recreation as the trails maintenance supervisor, and five years later, started his own company: Sagebrush Trails. Sagebrush has built trails on Antelope Island, Jordanelle State Park, Wasatch State Park, Deer Valley and in the hills above Oakley.
Bob is now the Trails and Open Space Manager at the Snyderville Basin Recreation District, where he doesn’t get out as much as he used to, to his regret. He manages a $600,000 budget, four year-round, and five seasonal employees, and bunch of machinery and tools. "Trails can’t all be built with machinery," he says, "We still need rakes, handsaws, and shovels.
And there’re a lot of trails. The 340-mile trail system in the Basin includes sidewalks, and bike lanes so there’s plenty to do. Bob’s staff maintains half of the 215 miles of single track trails, with landowners taking care of the rest. "We have 30 miles of paved trails now, too," he adds. "It’s important to connect all of these neighborhoods."
And what’s the best part? "The community wants trails, demands trails, and they’re willing to pay for them," says Bob. That’s evident with the recent passage of the 2014 Open Space and Trails bond for $20 million, and the $25 million bond that passed in 2004. You pay for it, and they’ll build it.
"Since I’ve been at Basin Recreation we’ve doubled the number of trails here," he says. "I like the idea of giving people a means to be outdoors, to exercise and hike and bike. Plus, it’s all free. I can’t think of a better job." With that, he and Boomer roll on down the trail.
FAVORITE PLACE TO TRAVEL: Africa. The Serengeti is just very real, big, and wild. Nothing like it.
NEXT ADVENTURE: We bought a small camper, and plan on getting away on that. The last time we went tent-camping it rained for 36 hours.
FAVORITE PIECE OF MACHINERY: They’re all great; just grab anything that’s sitting there. The mini-excavator, though, is the best for trail construction.
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