For a more comprehensive story, read "15 Years of Service: A Look Back at IMBA's National Mountain Bike Patrol" in Dirt Rag Magazine.
As the sport of mountain biking skyrocketed in the late '80s and early '90's, more and more people discovered the thrill of riding trails on mountain bikes. Conflicts arose with other trail-users, including hikers and equestrians. Land managers closed or threatened to close trails to mountain biking unless mountain bikers agreed to help educate and inform their fellow riders about particular issues in popular riding areas.
The National Mountain Bike Patrol was created in 1994 by NORBA (National Off-Road Bicycling Association). NORBA passed the Patrol program on to IMBA in 1997. IMBA's focus on trail access was a better platform for the project than NORBA's racing oriented mission. Since then, IMBA has helped form more patrol groups in the U.S., Japan, Italy, and Canada.
Early volunteer mountain bike patrol groups were formed in popular riding areas where the limited resources of the local land management agency were outpaced by the swell of new trail users. One of the first patrol groups was the CORBA Mountain Bike Unit for the Santa Monica Mountains in Los Angeles. As a result of the MBU's efforts, mountain bikers have enjoyed access to the trails of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. This is one of the very few National Park Service managed lands where bikes are allowed on singletrack trails.
In popular but remote backcountry areas like Moab, Utah, the local search and rescue teams were unable to keep up with the huge number of new trail users. Needs included better signage, maps that showed bike trails, assistance to injured riders, and search and rescue operations. In 1994, a group of mountain bikers worked with the BLM and other local agencies to form the Moab Volunteer Mountain Bike Patrol. With mountain bike patrollers providing information and assistance to riders, the burden of lost, stranded and injured mountain bikers was eased for local officials. Mountain bike access in this riding mecca was preserved. The Moab Patrol is the first NMBP trained and recognized National Mountain Bike Patrol.