Colorado Mountain Bike Association Launches Urban Trails Initiative in Denver
The Colorado Mountain Bike Association (COMBA), a chapter of IMBA based in Denver, has launched an urban trails initiative that will engage Groundwork Denver's Green Team — paid youth environmentalists who do summer projects — for trail building and maintenance in Denver's urban core.
The idea is to extend COMBA’s work from a generally backcountry setting to the heart of the city, where parks and trails are accessible to a much wider population, especially to residents who might not have the transportation necessary to access the rural trails where most of the area’s riding occurs.
COMBA’s vision is twofold: introduce an entirely new audience to mountain biking and stewardship via caring for urban park landscapes; and start a conversation with Denver parks about how natural surface trails are important to the health of green spaces and surrounding communities. COMBA ultimately hopes the initiative will result in a network of urban singletrack in Denver.
“This all started with the simple question of ‘Why do we have to get in our cars and drive an hour to ride our mountain bikes when we live in Denver?’” says Jason Bertolacci, COMBA’s president. “I think most of us moved here for the mountain recreation, but natural surface trails and mountain bikes aren’t even a part of the conversation in Denver’s parks.”
COMBA is targeting Green Team youth projects in underserved Denver neighborhoods, including maintenance and cleanup at Denver's Barnum Bike Park. COMBA will also take Green Team members out riding after work projects on a fleet of 30, high-quality mountain bikes the group plans to keep and maintain.
Having fun while riding a mountain bike is a critical component of the projects. “These are urban youth who have never experienced modern mountain bikes or riding as anything other than transportation,” says Bertolacci. “Kids get excited about bikes. This is just one way to connect them to the land and teach them about stewardship. We’ll be reaching a new audience beyond the diehards who already love bikes and will drive to the backcountry to build new trail.”
To complete the projects, COMBA secured a $15,000 grant from REI and is also partnering with BikeDenver, Denver Parks and Recreation and the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA). Groundwork Denver and the NPS RTCA are the primary drivers behind COMBA’s vision.