Even after 15 years on the road, the Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crews still have to explain that they’re not just out there for the mountain bikers.
The crews’ visits are in fact focused on communities. Certainly, the crews teach volunteers to build fun and sustainable trails for all users, but that’s only the beginning. The crews’ ultimate goal is to foster relationships among trail users, land managers, and city officials, so that after the crews leave, community members can move forward together. As trail systems emerge from group partnerships, their presence enhances land conservation, improves the quality of life for local residents, and brings in needed tourism dollars.
Since we sent the first crew, Mike and Jan Riter, out on the road in 1997, countless trail systems and their communities have grown from the kernels of crew visits.
Even trails we take for granted today, many years removed from their inceptions, were helped by crew visits. The Kokopelli area trails in Fruita, Colorado, had been under construction for some time, but a visit from the Trail Care Crew in 1999 forged a relationship between the Bureau of Land Management and the local mountain bike club. That partnership flourished, ultimately providing dozens of innovative new trails for mountain bikers in the region. The Fruita/Grand Junction area is now considered one of the best and most diverse places to ride in the country.
The growth of that trail system in turn fed the coffers of the city. Fruita is a tiny town that until recently was struggling to get by on its peach orchards. It now boasts a thriving tourism economy based on mountain biking, hiking, and rafting.
A Trail Care Crew visit to Draper, Utah, in 2000 united a community of equestrians with their mountain biking, hiking, and trail running compatriots into the Draper City Trails Committee. This group went on to build 85 miles of shared-use trails and paths, a great addition to any community. But their biggest accomplishment was saving the 1,200-acre Corner Canyon from developers to create a trails-based nature park – a success that likely would not have occured if the trail users hadn’t spoken with a unified voice.
The cumulative effect of these visits is paying off as well. As more and more communities build trail systems and promote their success, they inspire other areas of the country to apply for visits, and the spiral continues. We here at IMBA look forward to seeing what results from the next 15 years of crew visits.