In May 2012, IMBA-SORBA and the US Forest Service (USFS) Southern Region signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will strengthen an already productive relationship.
The MOU states that the USFS is, “interested in providing a variety of mountain bicycling opportunities that are environmentally sensitive, financially sustainable, educational, supportive of local and regional economies and aligned with goals of enhancing quality of life in the communities and public at large.” The document acknowledges that IMBA-SORBA and its affiliates are the best partners with which to accomplish those goals.
“This really is a big deal, not just a feel-good piece of paper,” says IMBA-SORBA Region Director Tom Sauret. “Both sides realized that our chapters and clubs were competing for mileage, access, grant money and resources to lay trail across the southeast. Riders are strained attempting to maintain unpopular trails in far-flung areas while the forest service is uncertain how to identify the best places to put trails and how to get the most bang for its buck.”
The MOU will help address inconsistencies across regional USFS properties that have sometimes stymied IMBA-SORBA affiliates and their volunteers. Everything from rules about wearing helmets while building trail to requirements for machine-use certification will be clarified and standardized. It will also develop and implement a systematic approach to training and educating volunteers, as well as define the most important qualifications required of a good trail designer and builder. Additionally, the MOU tasks IMBA-SORBA with “defining criteria for evaluating, developing and maintaining excellent/sustainable mountain bike trails and trail systems that includes user experience, environmental, social and financial aspects.”
The requirement to define and prioritize “excellent” mountain bike trails will likely result in a few closures, but Sauret emphasizes that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“The spirit of this partnership is that if unused, unpopular trails get closed, the forest service and IMBA-SORBA will turn around and develop new trails using our guidelines,” he says. “We might see fewer trails, but we will also see more excellent trails being built. Existing trails will also be elevated in areas where people live and ride.”