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A Note of Thanks for Trail Champions

A Note of Thanks for Trail Champions

The voices behind the vision for more trails

Posted: December 21, 2021
Photo courtesy of: Devon Balet

The Signal Peak trails that I ride near home are three-years “new.” Before joining the IMBA team, I was the visionary force behind this system, as well as the boots on the ground. Both were required and it took eleven years of work before building could begin. IMBA was instrumental in guiding me through this work and securing a community-wide “yes!” I didn't realize it at the time, but I was a trail champion. If you look at any new or renovated trail, you’ll always be able to trace success to a trail champion. 

It’s an honor to now work with these dedicated local leaders at IMBA, meeting trail champions in communities across the country who are committed to trails and the benefits they bring.  

Growing the quantity and quality of trail communities takes partnerships between IMBA and local leaders like Cara Rose with Pocahontas County, West Virginia. Cara has been instrumental in inspiring Snowshoe’s commitment to the Snowshoe-Highlands IMBA Ride Center™, which has welcomed UCI World Cup races back to the U.S. on trails built by our IMBA Trail Solutions team. Nick Loftus with Susquehanna Area Mountain Bike Association in Central Pennsylvania is a decades-long mountain bike advocate working on trail connectivity within the Rattling Creek IMBA EPIC and beyond. Dave Jacobson in Cedar City, Utah, is the area’s Bureau of Land Management recreation planner. Dave brought the vision for miles of trail out the backdoor in a unique landscape to his community, and has stayed dedicated to a progressive trail system that has inspired a new IMBA Local Partner in Cedar City and a swell of growth in NICA participation

Who is your local trail champion?

No two trail champions are alike. They all bring unique skills and all require different resources and tools to see trails through. What trail champions do share, is a holistic trail vision to accelerate the momentum of trail development that will grow mountain biking in their community. These leaders are civically engaged professionals who wield their super powers for trails—a combination of infectious inspiration, influence, tenacity and individual strengths. 

Head down to Columbus, Georgia, and the name Blake Melton is practically synonymous with the Standing Boy trail system that’s putting the first trails close to home for all trail users in this growing southeast metro. Jeremy Hyatt with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in leading the Fire Mountain trail system in Cherokee, North Carolina. In Redlands, California, IMBA’s newest Ride Center™, Jonathon Baty has been working for more than a decade to rally community support around mountain biking and grow the variety of local riding into a destination. 

Who is the trail champion in your town? Who’s that person? You know the one. Maybe they’re on the microphone to inspire at every fundraiser, or at the local government meetings to advocate for trails. Maybe they’re the energizer behind volunteer work days or group rides. Maybe they play the connector role by bringing mountain bikers, trail users, local officials, community groups and professional trail planners together to envision trail systems that serve the entire community. Who’s face comes to mind? 

Tell us about a trail champion

Developing new trails is complicated work. I’ve been there. I’ve lived it. I get it. So do you. The IMBA team is supporting trail champions with knowledge about securing access and funding, guidance on planning and design, providing direct grants, and supplying never-ending morale to help communities see trails through. If trail champions face a challenge, we want to help. If communities get it done, we celebrate together. 

With hundreds of communities and trail champions turning to IMBA for guidance, education and tools, we need to be ready. If you appreciate trails like I do, please consider giving back to trails. We’re helping create more trails and counting, thanks to support from mountain bikers like you. 

About the author
Image David Wiens

Dave has been mountain biking since the mid-1980s and has ridden and raced his bike on trails all over the world. He has been involved in trail advocacy from the beginning and was the founder and executive director of Gunnison Trails, and race director for the Gunnison Growler. A member of the…

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