Mike Dahlberg, former race announcer, takes over for Kim Burleson and hopes to bring some positive changes to the track

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS  - Mike Dahlberg waters down the dirt a few hours before a race on July 21. He has big plans for the track now that he's taken over as its operator, including a complete redesign, new starting gate, improved drainage system, and increased sponsorship.

Molalla River BMX's new track operator has big plans now that he has taken over.

Mike Dahlberg is a familiar face around the bike track, located adjacent to Molalla Elementary School on Toliver Road, as he's announced races for the last two years. He lives in Silverton and serves as the Lead Worker for the Public Works Department.

And now that he's stepped into the role that was held by Kim Burleson for more than a decade, he has a number of changes in mind.

Dahlberg recognizes that those changes might not come with a warm welcome, as the track has served as a recreation outlet for many throughout Molalla over the years, but he says he has to do what is in the best interest of the riders as well as the track.

"I've always believed that it's important to establish self-goals," he said. "So I sat one night with a pad of paper and pencil in my hand and I thought 'What are the main things I want to focus on being a track operator?'"

That's when he came up with prioritizing the best interests for the riders and the track.

At the forefront of those interests is redesigning the layout of the track. Dahlberg says he recognizes the caliber of the track in its current state, as it's set to host the state championships again at the end of August, but he has long-term goals in mind. He said the track needs a redesign to better accommodate seasonal rainfall, as the most recent historically-wet winter and spring seasons took a toll on the track. He said it needs a more adequate drainage system that will require about 100 yards of dirt hauled in for the lifting of the track.

As for the best interests of the riders, Dahlberg has safety at the front of his mind.

He's concerned with the safety of the starting gate; it's not a roll-in gate like many tracks incorporate, but rather a forward-falling gate that runs the risks of getting a rider's limb stuck in the case of an accident or a false start, for example. The problem is that it carries a hefty price tag of $34,000, according to Dahlberg.

And that's where the track's recent move to nonprofit status comes in.

Dahlberg said advertisements from local and regional organizations has provided some additional financial help (Molalla's city ordinances ban advertising on publicly-owned land, but the Molalla City Council overruled that in the case of Molalla Rover BMX), but they're always looking for additional sponsors.

Businesses and organizations that wish to donate to Molalla River BMX receive all the tax perks of donating to a nonprofit, as well as the opportunity of advertising in front of a variety of groups from all around the country; the track draws in families from across the United States for some of its races.

Dahlberg's involvement with BMX began rather recently; about four years ago, he decided to take his two sons to a track in Salem, and they all fell in love with the sport. His sons, Casey and Evan, currently still compete at a high level.

Dahlberg wishes to continue the legacy of the Molalla River BMX track by ensuring its long-term sustainability and sponsorship as it continues to host big events like the state championship races.

"I had a smart man (Lance McGuire) tell me something here a couple months ago who has been in the sport a long time … he goes 'Mike, I've been to a lot of tracks across this country, and what makes Molalla special is that you do not have a huge area for people to wander off to, they are packed in tight,'" Dahlberg said. "He says 'It builds friendships, it builds camaraderie, it builds sportsmanship, and that's what makes Molalla so great, because that dirt out there is just a playground."

Molalla River BMX will once again host the state championships from August 25-27, and more information can be found on their website.

Conner Williams
Sports Reporter/News Contributor
503-829-2301 ext. 341
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