Portland Trail Riders
AMA D14 Racetrack with several practice dates
Dirt Type: Loamy to hard dirt
Track contact info
Portland Trail Riders
11999 Sandborn Rd
Call (517) 243-8404
Videos: SEE TRACK TOUR
Remembering Our Roots
By Heather Powers
You've heard the saying, "Those who don't know their history are destined to repeat it." Last month I shared with you about the early years of Portland Trail Riders. This month I wanted to tell you about some of our more recent history. I had the chance to spend some time with the man who holds the title of longest PTR president: David Leathers.
Dave Leathers has a long-time love affair with motorcycles. At 55 years old, he's maybe slowed down a little, but motocross is for the young and crazy anyway. Give him a beautiful trail ride or a hare scramble any day, and he will be up for it. In 1975, when Dave was in high school, he visited PTR and was a spectator at one of the Silverdome qualifiers. He started racing motocross races and hair scrambles in 1979. After high school, he was working in a warehouse. In 1981 Dave got a YZ125 and loved it. In the fall of 1983 a man named Scott Becker came to visit him at that warehouse. He invited him to ride team in the Dog Run, a members-only day at PTR. He loved the track and all the people he met there. In 1984 he got a KX 125 and wanted to ride more and more at Portland, so he decided to join the track. Scott was president of the club at this time, and his twin sons, Brad and Brett, we're getting really busy in their lives between racing and school, so Scott decided to step down from his presidency.
Dave really like the way the track was run and got himself elected as secretary in 1985 and 1986. In 1987 he became president. He continued to race the hare scrambles there with Eric Rosendall, and did everything he could to make PTR the best it could be. Dave's presidency lasted until 2002, when he stepped down from his position, but vowed to still stay involved with the finances of the track until the newly purchased land was paid off. PTR, like most tracks, struggled financially year to year. They still had to borrow money periodically from Charlie Burnham through the winter months to pay down the mortgage for the original 40 acres. Something needed to change.
That change came in the late 80s in the form of a man named Matt O'Donnell. Matt was a businessman by trade and he used his business savvy to help make the club more profitable. Matt helped turn the track around financially by running it more as a business and recruiting members and organizing races. He was the vice president under Dave, and the two men are best friends to this day. I know I’ve told you how family oriented this track is, but these two men have lived it. They each have three kids and all six of those kids were raised at the track: working, riding, and racing together as a family. They're all grown up now, but they have memories to last a lifetime.
One of the best decisions the track made in the late 90s was to purchase an additional 50 acres of land surrounding the original track. Marianne and Ed Eldridge, formerly Marianne Pohl, decided to sell off their property when Marianne's dad said, before he died, to offer the land to PTR before selling it to anyone else. Dave, Matt, and Sid Gallt offered to pay it off on a 20-year land contract. Marianne wanted to build her dream house and signing on the dotted line allowed her to do just that. It was a win-win situation. The track was able to pay off that loan early and is now completely self-sufficient. That just goes to show you what happens when people work together for the good of everyone involved.
Like today, the track back then ran a limited schedule, with 3 to 6 weekends a season devoted to motocross and quad racing and hare scrambles. In years past, PTR held charity races for Mott Children's Hospital where pros like Nick Wey would come, and the track would donate thousands of dollars to a worthy cause. I tell you this story because it's just another way of illustrating how PTR members work together for the greater good. We really do strive to make the track a family-friendly place for people to come and participate in the sport that they love.
I couldn't help but hear the passion in Dave's voice as he spoke about how Portland Trail Riders came to be. The track started with people, like Ernie Selden, who are passionate about motorsports and building a place where people could come to hone their skills, feel a sense of community, and compete with the best of the best. Dave told me a funny story about himself and Ernie. At one of the first hare scrambles on the new land, which was 6 or 7 miles long, Dave's bike blew up. Before too long here came Ernie on his 1972 DT 125 Yamaha to tow him back to the club grounds. Ernie loved that bike. He has spent his whole life in and around PTR and continues to be a devoted member of the club. He’s a fixture there on race days. Be sure to shake his hand when you see him!
People like Dave and Matt and Ernie are just a few examples of the passionate members who have made the club what it is today. Please consider joining us by becoming a member this year and having a say about how things are done. You have the chance to take your place in our history that your children will enjoy for generations to come. Call Bryon Hoeve at 517-202-0300 with any questions you may have about membership.