News: Retired master gunnery sergeant opens trail for base
Story by Lance Cpl. Justin Rodriguez
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Jeff LeBlanc wanted to give back to the community with a passion he developed during his 26 years in the Marine Corps, so he began building several bike trails in the community.
Leblanc retired in 2002 as a master gunnery sergeant and just a year prior discovered a passion for mountain biking. LeBlanc has since become the president of Down-East Cyclists, a local bicycle club, and has opened a 6.5 mile trail aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
“I’ve been riding since 2001,” said Leblanc. “It serves as a form of meditation for me. The wilderness around me makes it a challenge to navigate through, but at the same time, it’s calming for me. Once I started, I was hooked.”
LeBlanc participated in all of the Marine Corps Community Services’ Grand Prix series triathlons and races for five years in a row.
“I also raced for the Marine Corps Mountain bike team,” said LeBlanc. “It gave me a different experience than road biking gave me. It was an adrenaline rush.”
LeBlanc layed the groundwork for the Henderson Recreational Area Trail in 2010, when the old bike trail closed due to new base construction.
In May 2011, a memorandum established an agreement between Down East Cyclists and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune for the trail.
When the trail was finished in March 2013, LeBlanc and Down East Cyclists hosted a race for service members and their families to navigate the course.
During the winter months, LeBlanc closes the trail to conduct improvements and expansion.
“I’m hoping to open up another mile or two on the Piney Green side of the pond,” said LeBlanc. “When the summer comes rolling around again, I want the trail to be longer.”
In addition, he has been involved in the construction and upkeep of several trails in the Onslow County area.
“I don’t think there’s a trail in North Carolina I haven’t ridden,” said LeBlanc. “The idea was to make a trail aboard the base for service members and their families.”
The trail aboard Camp Lejeune offers two separate sections, including one specifically for beginners.
“He has done a lot for biking as a sport,” said Bruce Lockhart, production manager of DLA Document Services aboard the base. “Seeing a retired Marine come back and spend his time working to better the base and spread his knowledge is great.”
MCCS’ Outdoor Adventures offers an Intro to Mountain Biking class, Feb. 1 and 22. The class is $10 and includes a bike and instruction, said LeBlanc.
For more information, contact Outdoor Adventures at 451-1440.
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