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A lasting tribute

Dennis Cribbet’s wife, Cheryl (right), and daughter, Nicole, are pictured with a bike repair station installed in his memory at the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area’s Bandy Creek Visitor Center. (Ben Garrett/IH)

Dennis Cribbet enjoyed the mountain biking trails of the Big South Fork NRRA. (Photo submitted)

In some ways, a new bike repair station at the Big South Fork’s Bandy Creek Visitor Center could be considered a lasting tribute to Dennis Cribbet, paid for by those who knew him best.

But in other ways, the bike repair station — and one just like it that will soon be installed at Blue Heron Campground on the north end of the park — could be considered Cribbet’s final tribute to the park he loved.

The self-service bike repair stations are being installed with memorial funds that were donated by Cribbet’s friends and family after the 65-year-old died from complications of prostate cancer treatment earlier this year.

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The complete story can be found in the November 23, 2017 print edition of the Independent Herald.[/s2If]

[s2If current_user_can(access_s2member_level1)]Cribbet’s widow, Cheryl Cribbet, requested donations to the Big South Fork in lieu of flowers after her husband’s passing. She expected a few hundred dollars, but certainly nothing like what the national park received from in his memory.

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“I was thinking maybe we could install a bench, maybe two benches,” Cheryl Cribbet said. “I never imagined there would be as much as there was. We were blown away.”

The donations came in from all over — “back home” in Florida, which is where the Cribbets lived before moving to the northern Cumberland Plateau — and from here, as well. The couple were active in Low Gap Missionary Baptist Church and well-liked in Rugby, where Cheryl Cribbet once served as executive director of the non-profit that manages the historic Victorian village.

When it became clear that the donations would purchase more than just a bench, Cribbet received a call from Big South Fork NRRA superintendent Nikki Nicholas.

“She said she had always wanted to install these bike repair stations, but the park didn’t have the money to pay for them,” Cribbet said. “It just made sense.”

It made sense in more ways than one, in fact. Dennis Cribbet was a dedicated mountain biker, and was also a former employee of the Big South Fork.

More than that, it was the Big South Fork that lured the couple to Scott County in the first place.

Before they came to Big South Fork Country, the Cribbets spent more than a decade in what most folks would consider paradise — the tiny Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia. There, they were involved in tourism in various capacities, including in management for the Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain resorts.

Dennis Cribbet helped build one of the bike trails at Anse Chastanet — where they refer to the sport as jungle biking rather than mountain biking.

In the mid 2000s, the Cribbets began exploring the idea of moving back stateside. They wanted to be near a national park, and they wanted to be able to take advantage of outdoors recreation opportunities. Their research led them to the Big South Fork.

In many ways, the BSF was a perfect fit. Mountain biking was a well-established sport at the eastern U.S.’s fifth-largest national park unit by the time the Cribbets returned stateside in 2008. While the International Mountain Biking Association’s coveted “epic” rating for the Big South Fork was four years away at that point, there were more than 300 miles of mountain biking trails in the park, if you include the equestrian trails that are open to cyclists. No other national park has more than a handful of miles of biking trails, and most have none at all.

The Cribbets explored until they found a piece of property in the Low Gap community south of Huntsville, which they purchased and eventually established Elk Run — cabin rentals that cater to visitors to the Big South Fork and especially to ATV riders visiting Brimstone. Situated at the entrance of Trail 2, the Cabins of Elk Run are the only rental cabins that provide direct trail access to Brimstone’s property.

Meanwhile, Cheryl Cribbet took a job as Historic Rugby’s executive director and Dennis went to work for the BSF. After work, they would often end their days pedaling the park’s epic-designated trails, like Collier Ridge, Duncan Hollow Bypass and Grand Gap. Dennis broke his upper arm when he crashed his bike into a tree along the West Bandy trail, but that was only a temporary setback. By the time his orthopedic doctor cleared him to return to the trails, he was raring and ready to go.

When Cribbet was diagnosed with prostate cancer, his doctors were convinced he could beat it — but told him he would have to give up mountain biking.

“That was a dark time for him,” Cheryl Cribbet said. “He didn’t want to give that up.”

When Dennis died unexpectedly in July, after his body was unable to fight off a serious infection due to the cancer treatment he was taking, Cheryl asked mourners to forego flowers. Instead, she requested, make donations to the park her husband had worked for and loved — the park that brought them to Scott County to start with.

The result was the bike repair stations, which include unique designs that allow bikes to be hung on them for repair work. The stations also include the tools that cyclists need to make repairs and adjustments to their bikes, including an air pump, screwdrivers, wrenches, tire levers, and a hex key set.

Cheryl Cribbet, who has involved herself in the local tourism industry (she currently serves as chairman of the Scott County Chamber of Commerce’s Tourism Committee), takes pride in seeing the newly-installed bike station put to use by people who are doing what her husband loved to do so much.

“We’ve seen some people using the repair station,” Cribbet said as she visited the Bandy Creek station on a cold Friday morning with her daughter, Nicole, who made the move to Robbins earlier this year to be nearer her parents. “There are some pictures floating around Facebook of some guys who came up to bike and were using it.

“This is a good thing,” she added. “You can do your repairs right here when you get out of your vehicle, without having to carry tools with you. Dennis and I would have used it, that’s for sure.”

Mountain bikers who visit the Big South Fork — and there are a lot of them; mountain biking is one of the park’s fastest-growing usage groups, and is moving in on horseback riding for No. 2 on the park’s list of popular uses, behind hiking — likely won’t know who Dennis Cribbet was. But they’ll be able to repair their bike on site, thanks to the donations that were made in his honor.

“It just shows how many people loved Dennis,” Cribbet said. “That’s an awesome thing.”[/s2If]

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