Green Trails, Greenways, and an Ecosystem of Trails
Imagine if you can, a rolling, singletrack ribbon of dirt winding its way down a mountainside through an alpine meadow and into a forest of aspen and evergreens dotted with granite outcrops and perfectly constructed swoopy turns. Turns for miles, and every time you change directions you get another incredible view.
That’s a common vision for trail designers and singletrack visionaries across the globe. No matter where you ride, sooner or later you look at an area and think, wow this would make a great spot for a trail. That is exactly how the newest project of the Central Idaho Mountain Bike Association (CIMBA) was conceived back in 2009. It all started with a map, an existing trail system, a new trail system, and the idea of connecting the two. Then press pause…for nine years.
The trail we are starting this year has literally been on the shelf since 2011 when the project was originally approved by the Payette National Forest as part of a larger National Forest Project in the area. Due to a lack of funding and staffing from the Forest Service, the trail was never built. We started working on other projects and kept coming back to that elusive connection between the trails at Brundage Mountain Resort and the stacked loop trails at the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Bear Basin Trailhead.
After successfully completing our first professionally built trail project in the area (the West Side of the Payette Lake Trail) and seeing the increase in bike traffic and bike stoke on all our local trails, CIMBA approached the USFS to discuss partnering on this Brundage to Bear Basin connector trail. Since the original proposal did not include a finalized route, we would be starting from scratch, or in design speak, we had an open canvas to design a trail on an 8-mile-long ridge with a vertical drop/climb of 1,600 feet.
All good trails start with exploration. CIMBA volunteers spent some 60 hours examining contour maps, walking possible alignments, and developing a rough trail alignment between 2018 and 2019. Once we had our alignment, we brought in the pros from Progressive Trail Design to help finalize the route and shoot grades to keep it within USFS trail specifications for an uphill/downhill, multiple-use, non-motorized trail.
Taking into account the environmental impact of the trail was critical. In this area, we have streams that run into rivers full of native salmon and steelhead, as well as other species protected under the Endangered Species Act. We also needed to skirt areas that are closed to protect nesting Goshawks and Great Grey Owls (also protected species in this area). The environmental review on our alignment was substantial. After an additional two years and a significant reroute, CIMBA finally got approval for the project and became a cooperating agency with the Payette National Forest. We can now officially say that this 8.4-mile-long trail will be completed by the fall of 2022.
Getting approval, however, was only one portion of the project. Our vision of the trail included hiring professional trail builders to do the work better than we could do it ourselves. Trail building companies are staffed by passionate riders who love what they do, but they don’t come cheap. We needed money to make this dream a reality. CIMBA launched into a new phase of fundraising that we had not even dreamed of. We made presentations to local groups including our Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, and several charitable foundations in the state. Money started coming in and we started successfully writing grants. This project is funded by several different grants including the IMBA/Shimano Dig In grant, Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, Recreational Trails Program (RTP), the City of McCall Local Option Tax grant, and several other smaller grants.
In addition to grant funding, we also received major donations from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation and from the One Track Mind Foundation. Donations and fundraising from local events and individual donors helped us reach our goals. We are proud to have partnered with Progressive Trail Design out of Bentonville, Arkansas, and Dirt Candy Designs from Minnesota’s North Shore to build the trails this summer. Brundage Mountain Resort will also be supplying several members of their trail crew to help Progressive Trail Design and Dirty Candy Designs throughout the build.
In the words of Tracy Paradise, CEO of the One Track Mind Foundation and a passionate cyclist, “Good things come to those who wait, and to those who work relentlessly to make new trails happen. That is what mountain bikers are all about: endurance, passion, and commitment! These qualities are at the heart of this project.”
This project took all these things and has also fostered relationships with the Payette National Forest, Idaho Department of Lands, Ponderosa State Park, the City of McCall, Brundage Mountain Resort, and several private landowners. CIMBA has a proven track record working with each of these agencies and groups that has demonstrated a level of legitimacy and professionalism to our partners. In addition, being an IMBA chapter and affiliated with One Track Mind has also given us a level of recognition on a national level and shown our partners and prospective donors that we are more than just a local club or a bunch of dirtbag mountain bikers (we have hidden that well!). Our past projects and volunteer efforts have also shown that we can utilize funding effectively and wisely while repairing and building many miles of trails around the area.
Writing this post, it makes me realize several things that can help other groups fulfill their goals: first and foremost, IT TAKES TIME, way more than you will ever believe when you are getting started! Everything from working with the agencies, designing a quality trail, getting projects reviewed, funding, writing grants and finally finding the right contractors is going to take a level of patience that can only be compared to a long grueling climb on two wheels. Bikers understand the zen-like state of the climb which is always rewarded with the thrill of the down. Trail building is EXACTLY the same thing: you put your head down and concentrate on one pedal stroke at a time until you finally get to the top of the hill. That is where we are now, near the top and with a few more pedal strokes we can enjoy a thrilling descent.