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Forest Service and Mountain Bikers Collaborate at Lake Tahoe Conference

For Immediate Release 10-13-2010
Contact: Mark Eller
IMBA Communications Director
markeller [at] imba [dot] com

This October, mountain bikers from the Lake Tahoe region gathered with officials from the U.S. Forest Service and IMBA staff to collaborate on strategies for improving regional riding opportunities. The Tahoe Trails Conference opened with remarks from Eli Ilano, Deputy Forest Supervisor of the Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. “This gathering is a fantastic opportunity to learn from each other, and it comes at a crucial moment,” Ilano told the conference attendees, who numbered close to 100 over the three-day event.

The Tahoe Basin Management Unit will soon appoint a new Forest Supervisor (Ilano is the interim supervisor), and will also conclude its effort to create a new Management Plan that will shape trail development and other work for the next decade. “This is a critical juncture,” said Tom Ward, IMBA’s California policy advisor. “The Forest Service went out of their way to help plan this conference with IMBA, and I feel confident in saying that everyone who attended feels that the progress we made was nothing short of incredible.”

“The mountain biking here is fabulous and compares well with the best in the country, but we have some special challenges related to protecting Lake Tahoe and, in some areas, the type of soil available,” said Linda George, a Tahoe-area rider who helped organize the event.  “We also have talented locals who want to see more variety in the styles of riding available. This conference built momentum for creating new local organizations or perhaps reviving our existing club, the Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association, so that we can better partner with the Forest Service on a variety of exciting projects.”

According to Garrett Villanueva, a trail engineer with the Forest Service, the addition of local clubs could greatly enhance collaboration between mountain bikers and forest managers. “It’s difficult to act on suggestions for trail enhancements that we receive from just one or two individuals at a time. But if a group of mountain bikers can agree on a list of projects — and if they seem prepared to help support those projects over the long haul — then I know we will accomplish great things.”

The successful talks at the Tahoe Trail Conference earned the attention of top-ranking officials in the U.S. Forest Service. "We feel the conference has relevance at a national scale; information from the conference was distributed across the Forest Service nationwide by the national trail coordinator," said Villanueva. “While some of the issues we discussed are unique to our locale, there are some general principles involved — including the idea that behind every successful bike community is a functioning bike group and a willing land manager.”