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A Mammoth Occasion - Big Hollow Trail Ribbon Cutting at Mammoth Cave National Park

On June 7th something monumental happened in Southwest Kentucky. In the land known for the largest network of cave systems in the world we celebrated the addition of a recreational ammenidity above ground.  My entire life I always reveared Mammoth Cave National Park as a prime destination and wouldn't have thought it could get any better until now.

Since 1999 advocates and park staff have been working to develop better access for mountain bikers at the park. The process began with locals and park staff generating a proposal that resulted in experimental access.  During the experimental access period local mountain bicyclists proved themselves to be great trail stewards, performing virtually all of the maintenance on the experimental access trails. The experimental period was successful and mountain bicycling proved to be an appropriate use.

Without getting into too much NPS process and policy talk, Mammoth Cave National Park finalized a comprehensive trail management plan in 2008, which included construction of the Big Hollow trail and bicycle access on three other existing trails in the park. In 2012 the National Park Service completed the required special regulation to permit bicycle use on the identified trails.

SIGNIFICANCE

The Big Hollow Trail is the first trail in a National Park[1] to have been designed and constructed to provide a sustainable bicycling experience. The result is an model of a “gateway” mountain biking trail and was recognized by IMBA in our model trail awards. Gateway trails are intentionally designed to provide beginners and children an introduction to mountain bicycling while still providing a rugged outdoor recreation experience for all users.

There are many people to thank when referencing this project. On behalf of the IMBA Board of Directors, IMBA Staff and our thousands of supporters I would like to thank the staff of Mammoth Cave National Park and the regulations staff in Washington DC that made this incredible project happen.

The Directors of the National Park Service since the project began, especially Director Jonathan B. Jarvis and the The Superintendents of Mammoth Cave National Park throughout the projects lifespan, including Superintendent Sarah Craighead. In addition to the leadership there have been dozens of park staff who have dedicated many hours to seeing this project through over the years and we thank them as well.

Achieving a "Gateway" trail designation is no easy task.  The ability to construct the combination of an approachable and beginner friendly system that also challenges and intriques more advanced riders is a highly develop skill that Ed Sutton and his crew from Trail Dynamics did an amazing job at.  And of course, as Superintendent Craighead said it best, "We wouldn't be in this situation without the commitment and support of the Southwest Kentucky Mountain Bike Association, the local IMBA Chapter." Their dedication and contributions to the maintenance of the facility post contruction were the only way this project would have happened.  Local leaders like Johnny Johnson, Fritz Games, and Chip Winger and the dozens of volunteers who contributed to this project all deserve major kudos.  Without dedicated local advocates willing to give up their Saturday afternoon to attend a meeting, take vacation days do go to conferences, spend the evening reading an EIS and drafting comments, none of this would happen.

If Mammoth Cave wasn't on your family vacation list it should be now.  See you out on the trails.

 


[1] The trails at New River Gorge National River are also managed by the National Park Service but, while no less significant, the areas are not designated a National Park.

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