—Guest blog by Ashley Korenbat, former IMBA Board Chair and CEO of Western Spirit Cycling Adventures
The Rainbow Rim is the first purpose-built trail I ever rode. Our company Western Spirit Cycling had been outfitting guided bike trips on both the North and South Rim of the Grand Canyon for years and there were always great trails. But when the Rainbow Rim was built, that changed everything.
The Grand Canyon gets lots of attention because of its sheer size and the river itself. But from a mountain biker’s perspective, it is all about the forest that leads right up to the rim’s edge. The Kaibab and Tusayan National Forests are park-like expanses with beautiful open meadows interspersed with Aspens and Ponderosa Pines. It is perfect terrain for flowing trails that make for fun, swoopy cruising for miles on end. And at regular intervals throughout, there is the grand view into the Canyon from the trail’s edge.
I have since ridden these trails with riders from beginners and ex-Olympians, and everyone has an amazing time. To be able to offer trips on iconic trails like this is essential for the success of our business. But as with all multi-use lands, there are threats. Uranium claims exist in key spots across this landscape. The problem with resource extraction is the resulting footprint—not just the mine, but all the infrastructure and roads and traffic that go with it.
The Grand Canyon is unique in the world and is a steady and reliable economic driver for the region. Cycling on the Rainbow Rim is one piece of the pie. It just doesn’t make sense threaten this popular and iconic landscape for speculative mining ventures that are dependent on the whim of global commodity prices. On protected lands, visitor revenue is much more reliable.
For this reason, I support a Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument and encourage President Obama to take action to designate it.
A monument designation is likely to result in the creation of an advisory committee to help develop the management plan for the region. It is critical that a broad array of recreational stakeholders be part of this committee. The current legislation for this monument lacks a human-powered recreation representative, leaving an important voice out of management and economic discussions.
Recreation representation is also needed to improve coordination between the National Park and the National Forest. While both teams are doing their jobs, there are lots of great opportunities for better coordination that a Monument designation would facilitate. A coordinated recreation plan for the region would improve the visitor experience and better protect the area in every way.