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St. George, Utah

To a group of mountain bikers eager to ride a new trail, the prospect of waiting a decade might seem like an eternity. However, compared to the thousands of years it takes to form cryptobiotic soils, a decade is just a blip in time. Ten years was all it took for IMBA and the BLM to transform the Green Valley trail system in St. George, Utah, from an ecological disaster to a model trail system that entertains and educates users while protecting delicate resources. We think it was worth the wait.

"The area was a confusing spider's web of trails," said Cimarron Chacon, landscape architect for the BLM on this project. "In addition to being a bad user experience, nearly all of the trails took away from the habitat, disturbed the sensitive soils, and threatened the existence of the endangered Bearclaw-Poppy plant." The BLM partnered with the Fish and Wildlife Service, IMBA and local mountain bikers to develop a plan that would create a sustainable trail system, rehabilitate the damaged areas, and educate users.

All of the existing trails were meticulously walked, mapped, and evaluated for sustainability. Consulting with IMBA and local mountain bikers, the BLM determined one route that would be monitored and eventually determine the feasibility of trails in this area. Due to the delicate nature of the soils, the trail was closed to horses. Understanding the equivalent impacts of mountain bikers and hikers and acknowledging the incredible support by IMBA and local riders, the BLM designated this as one of the first "mountain biker preferred-use" trails in the country.

Droves of volunteers assisted with the rehabilitation of the trails. Using a new method of trail restoration, which involved transplanting soil from old trails to newly constructed routes, an unexpected result occurred. "We found out that we could actually make cryptobiotic soil grow!" Chacone noted. The discovery that would eventually be published in a scientific journal.

After the rehabilitation and redesign of the trail system, the plan required a means to keep users informed and on the trail. The BLM sponsored an IMBA Bike Patrol that took on the responsibility of trail stewardship, and would regularly assist and communicate to users about the sensitivity of the area and the importance of staying on the trail. To ensure that all users were educated, interpretive signs explaining user-etiquette and describing the local ecology were placed throughout the trail system. The final part of the trail redevelopment plan changed the name from Green Valley to the Bearclaw-Poppy Trail System to further promote the rare and beautiful desert flower only found in this area of Utah.

As the Fish and Wildlife Service monitored the new trails, they were surprised to discover that the Bearclaw-Poppy actually thrived in the slightly disturbed areas next to the tread and described the changes that took place as a model trail project. Today the Bearclaw-Poppy Trail is the most popular trail in town, providing 12 miles of incredible desert mountain biking experiences for riders of all skills and ages.

This report was made possible by a grant from Shimano.