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The Power of Progressive Land Managers

Mountain bike advocates know that there are no trail fairies. Most also know that no project gets done without the help and tireless work of a friendly, thoughtful land manager.

IMBA would like to recognize the following innovative land managers and the mountain-bike-related partnership projects they are leading. Their success stories illustrate excellent examples of how to create collaborations that result in great trail systems and great volunteer opportunities.

Each presented at the Outdoor Alliance Partnership Summit in Golden, CO, Dec. 6-8. IMBA is a founding member of the Outdoor Alliance.

Epic Trails and the Power of Youth

Land manager: Zach Jarrett, Lead Outdoor Recreation Planner, Salem District, BLM

Project: Sandy Ridge Trail System, Mt. Hood, OR

If you've followed IMBA's work in recent years, you have probably heard of the Sandy Ridge Trail System near Mt. Hood, OR. It’s an innovative and nationally recognized mountain bike trail network developed by the BLM, working in collaboration with IMBA Trail Solutions.

What you may not know is that it’s also an inspiring model of engaging young people through volunteer trail building.

Young volunteers accounted for a stunning 25,000 hours of labor on the Sandy project. None of that could have happened without the help of Zach Jarrett, who has been working with IMBA for more than four years to address a lack of mountain bike riding opportunities in Western Oregon.

Jarrett supported IMBA's desire to design the best system it knew how, rather than just another singletrack trail. He made his case to BLM decision makers by emphasizing the availability of a cost-effective way to build everything and a plan for managing that solution: youth corps crews.

The muscle power provided by the youth corps volunteers helped to minimize the BLM’s costs for completing the trail system. It wasn’t easy — working with students required coordination with social workers and regular supervision to keep the project moving in the right direction.

But when it was all said and done, more than 60 youth from a half-dozen local and regional groups had gained job skills, been exposed to the outdoors and were more integrated into the community. Better still, they were proud to help build 11 miles of beautiful singletrack that's now waiting for your next ride.

 

Partnerships Can Do More than Just Build Trails

Land Manager: Scott Dollus, Recreation Planner, South Platter Ranger District, USFS

Project: Buffalo Creek mountain bike trails, Denver, CO

In the early 1990s, Scott Dollus was involved in a prescribed burn in the Buffalo Creek Recreation Area near Denver, CO. He noticed that the rock formations and the line cut for the burn would make a cool place to ride a bike. The NEPA study had already been done, so there were relatively few hurdles to jump through. But in 1996, a series of devastating fires began, and most of the trails were closed with no plans to be re-opened.

Shortly thereafter, Keith Clarke and the Front Range Mountain Bike Patrol (FRMBP) showed up. Sixty-strong, the group of mountain bikers had experienced great success volunteering for Jefferson County Parks and Open Space, helping to significantly reduce user conflicts and prevent mountain bike trail closures. Clarke and the patrol forged a partnership with Dollus with the goal of helping Buffalo Creek realize its mountain biking potential.

After one year, Dollus was so impressed with having an extra 60 sets of eyes on his land that he started letting the bikers do trail maintenance projects. In 2006, the Forest Service allowed the bike patrol, in conjunction with IMBA and the Colorado Mountain Bike Association (COMBA), to draw up a master trail plan for the area.

Ultimately, 27 miles of new trail were approved, 12 of which are on the ground today. Of the 60 miles of trail in the Buffalo Creek area before this effort there wasn’t anything specifically built for mountain bikers, so COMBA was allowed to design and build a new black-diamond trail. The trail has brought out an entirely new crop of volunteers and resulted in positive media attention in both the local newspaper and major magazines.

The trails have also provided an economic driver for the nearby town of Bailey, CO. A public-private partnership formed the Bailey Hundo 100-mile mountain bike race with support of former Colorado State Senator Chris Romer. The charity race raises funds for youth cycling programs, raises funds for the trails in the Buffalo Creek system and helps fuel the recreation-based economy of Bailey.

The 15-year-old partnership sustains today and has resulted in 6,900 hours of volunteer labor contributed by the FRMBP alone. Buffalo Creek has the potential to become a world-class destination for human-powered recreation.

 

One Man, Many Advocates, Bike Trails for Everyone

Land Manager: Francis Berg, Assistant Field Manager, Redding Field Office, BLM

Project: Sacramento River Trail System/Redding Trails, Redding, CA

“Process is sometimes important, but people are always important. You have to let them in, you have to let them do, and that builds trust. If you get past your own turf, you will all be successful. Also, baked goods help.” – Francis Berg

The BLM office in Redding, CA, is known for a culture of cooperation, thanks largely in part to the steady presence of Francis Berg. By working closely with user groups across the spectrum, the office has helped develop more than 125 miles of non-motorized trail.

In 1993, the Redding Resource Management Plan, led by Berg, took into account what various community leaders and user groups were asking for and included a plan for developing a greenway trail system. It seemed daunting in that it passes through lands owned by the BLM, Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation, the city of Redding, Shasta County and even some private residents. Creating successful partnerships by keeping everyone on the same page and dividing up tasks among the public and private sectors were the only ways to make the project happen.

But Berg also thought about how to market the trail, not just get it built. The BLM chose two significant cultural landmarks as the trail’s endpoints: the Shasta Dam and the Sundial Bridge. Considering mountain bikers, they made sure that a dirt path accompanied each section of paved trail. The BLM also hosted a grand opening in partnership with several local groups, including IMBA, to help spread the word. People were bussed in with their bikes to ride the new system, which immediately created massive public awareness.

When completed, that greenway — the Sacramento River Rail Trail system — will include more than 26 miles of non-motorized trail, ranging from flat paved portions to steep, rocky singletrack. The number of miles, the sponsored events and the number of partners involved means the trails are always busy, the bike shops are hiring extra mechanics and Redding as a whole is experiencing related economic benefits.

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