By 2016, Rene Creed had worked in the family business, motorcycles, for about two decades and owned a successful shop, Gateway Harley-Davidson in Mehlville, Missouri. But that year, she and her husband, Chris, decided to get out.

They had experienced a pair of tragedies: Their general manager, Jon Bailey, died in a motorcycle accident and a nephew, Tom Surdyke, died while saving a young man who was drowning in the ocean. Both instances reinforced the idea that “life is short,” Rene said.

“We liked the business we were in, but we didn’t love it, and so we decided to just take the risk and let go of the financial stability that came with it so that we could put our focus and effort into what we truly love, which was children — [including] our children — getting outdoors and riding bicycles,” said Rene, who has one daughter and seven sons.

Chris had been a top amateur bicycle racer, and the couple sponsored a professional team, Gateway Devo Cycling. So, they decided to remain on two wheels but lose some horsepower.

Over the next five years, the pair launched a camp to teach children with special needs to ride bikes; created a program to donate bikes and helmets to elementary school physical education classes; and started a pizza restaurant and bike shop, Pedal’n Pie in Crystal City, Missouri.

The Creeds now have a nonprofit, Living Life on 2 Wheels, to support their philanthropic initiatives and have received donations from local business owners, a foundation, and Walmart. They have delivered bikes and equipment to 27 schools in Missouri.

Most recently, they have started on what is perhaps their most ambitious project: a 650-acre mountain bike park in Jefferson County, named Plattin Peaks Trails. In addition to building trails on the property, the Creeds hope to move their restaurant there and offer camping and RV sites as well as an amphitheater.

The common thread among all the projects is the couple’s belief that “the outdoors and people having access” to them “is a big part of being a happy, healthy person, and we want to help provide that,” said Rene.

Plattin Roots
The Creeds embarked on the mountain bike park, in part, out of necessity.

In 2018, they conducted a weeklong biking camp for 15 children with special needs at St. Pius X High School in Festus, Missouri. Within a week of the camp ending, Rene told Chris that they needed their own venue, so they sold some property and purchased 820 acres in Jefferson County from Rene’s father, Gary Surdyke.

The couple is selling 170 acres and keeping the rest for the park.

Once they secured the land, they needed a master plan to submit to Jefferson County officials to have the property rezoned for multiple uses.

Plattin Peak Map

Gabe Presley, a landscape architect, learned about the project and wanted to help. His firm, DTLS Landscape Architecture, submitted bids to draft the plan, but when the Creeds told him they could not afford to pay such a fee and still have money for development, Presley spoke with the firm’s leadership, who agreed to work on it pro bono. (Mademan Design also volunteered to work on the project.)

“A lot of the glades in Jefferson County are underappreciated,” said Presley, who lives in the area. “The idea of opening up this large property to the public is something that is so exciting for me, and something that I definitely wanted to be a part of.”

Economic Boon
In late January, the Creeds planned to soon submit the zoning application to the county.

Neighbors could have concerns about the increased traffic due to the park, says Mitchell Bair, Jefferson County director of county services, but he doesn’t expect that to prevent the Creeds from opening the park.

“If anybody’s got the wherewithal to do it, they do. They are a very well-established family within the area,” said Bair, who grew up in the county and returned to work there last year.

Chris is confident Plattin Peaks will be successful because there are no mountain bike parks within 45 minutes of the property, which contains 300 feet of elevation and is just “incredibly beautiful,” he said.

Bair, whose daughter attends University of Arkansas, sees how the Walton family (founders of Walmart) has made northwest Arkansas a mountain biking hub as a model for Jefferson County.

“Not only is it going to bring people there, but everybody” will “spend those dollars in the adjoining communities of Festus and Crystal City,” said Bair.

In addition to approval from the county, the Creeds still need to raise money to develop the park, which as part of a nonprofit, will offer trails that are free and open to the public.

Local businesses have donated money. Main & Mill Brewing Company brewed a beer, called All Terrain, to support the park and gave a portion of its sales to the trail development.

Pedal'n Pie

Chris and Rene Creed inside Pedal’n Pie in Crystal City, Mo.

The Creeds plan to have more than 20 miles of trails on the property and hope to open some downhill, single track, and hiking trails later this year.

The second phase of the plan would include moving Pedal’n Pie to the property and constructing the amphitheater.

Most of the Creeds’ children work in the pizza shop and will also help clear trails and enjoy the mountain biking.

“It’s stressful, but honestly, it’s just feels like that’s what we’re supposed to be doing,” said Chris, whose family is Catholic.

People sometimes ask the Creeds when they will be done with the park, and Chris responds, “I don’t know that we will ever be done.”

Author: Eric Berger is a regular contributor to Terrain Magazine.