By Brad Stager
Outdoor adventure is as close as traveling down one of the many nature and wilderness trails located throughout the Tampa Bay area.
But when an injury occurs to a biker, hiker or horseback rider miles from the paved trailhead parking lot, getting them out for medical care can be a serious problem for everyone involved, including emergency responders like those at HCFR Station 22 in Wimauma, who were only 10 minutes away when they responded last spring to a call for an injured bicyclist at the Balm-Boyette Scrub Preserve.
A special rescue litter was needed to bring the rider out of the wilderness overgrowing the site of a closed phosphate mine that has become a popular trail biking venue.
Terrain that is fun to ride a mountain bike on is treacherous for evacuating injured riders, so the EMT responders put a call out for the nearest of two special, one-wheel litters Hillsborough County has. That piece of equipment was 30 minutes away at HCFR Station 9 on Falkenburg Rd. in Brandon.
From that experience, which affected one of their own riders, the board of directors of the SWAMP Mountain Bike Club decided to buy one of the $1,600 litters for the county, to be maintained at Station 22, located near many of South Hillsborough County’s recreational trails, serving a rapidly growing population.
“There’s a lot of hiking, biking and riding horses and people getting hurt, so we thought it would be a good thing to keep one here,” said the club’s vice president, Mike Lamarca.
The model bought by the club, a Traverse Mule II Litter Wheel, makes it easier to navigate rough terrain because it has one oversize wheel, an improvement over models that use two or no wheels, according to Ann Braden, a driver/engineer with HCFR Station 22.
“As little as two people can carry a patient out of a remote area and not have them bounce around as much,” she said.
This is just one of the ways that SWAMP Mountain Bike Club promotes safe biking. The group, a registered 501(c)(3) organization, maintains four trails in the Tampa Bay area, including more than 23 miles of a single track and 15 miles of a multipurpose double track at the Balm-Boyette Scrub Preserve at 15102 CR 672 in Wimauma, about two miles east of Balm Boyette Rd.
You can learn more about SWAMP Mountain Bike Club at swampmtbclub.com.