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Mountain Biking in National Parks

Speakers: Ed Jager and Mark Schmidt, of Parks Canada; Joshua Nadas and Jamie Fields, of the U.S. National Parks Service

Overview: Representatives from Parks Canada and the U.S. National Parks Service presented their success stories.

Putting Bikes on Parks Canada's Trails

Part 1: Parks Canada’s History with MTBing

  • Presented by Ed Jager and Mark Schmidt, Parks Canada (Quebec, Canada).
  • Parks Canada’s approach to mountain biking has changed dramatically—trail projects are underway across the nation and partnerships with mountain bike clubs are thriving.
  • In the 1980s and 1990s, mountain biking’s rapid rise in popularity made it an 800-pound gorilla for land managers. Many ran away screaming.
  • In the early 2000s through today, Parks Canada moved past the early concerns and began seeking productive partnerships with the MTB community.
  • Mark Schmidt, now the Trail Specialist for Parks Canada’s Visitor Experience program (headed by Jager), transferred the knowledge he accumulated while working for IMBA.
  • The emphasis now is on identifying Parks Canada properties that are suited for mountain biking.  This requires a systematic assessment process (note the long “o” in Canadian pronunciation of pro-cess).

Part 2: What’s Next?

The game plan for continuing to enhance mountain biking in Parks Canada can be summarized as:

  • Research sites
  • Promote the story
  • Form partnerships
  • Build on relationship with IMBA Canada
  • Support local-level relations between MTB groups and individual parks

The new Trail Classification System will be a useful management tool. It tandardizes terminology, sets parameters for types of trails, maintenance needs, safety concerns and more. (See bottom of this page to download a PDF).

Creating Shared-Use Trails at the New River Gorge National River Area

How outstanding shared-use trails were developed, beginning with the New River Gorge General Management Plan and finishing with the largest youth service project ever undertaken by the U.S. National Park Service.

Presented by Joshua Nadas, NPS Program Analyst; and Jamie Fields, an Outdoor Recreation Planner at the New River Gorge National River.

Part 1: Changes in NPS Rules for Adding Mountain Bike Trails

Nadas, a NPS Program Analyst, explained the recent NPS rules changes that make it easier for parks to open trails to mountain biking. Additional info at these web pages:

  • NPS press release Revised Bicycle Plan Allows Greater Access to National Parks
  • Complete NPS rule available online as published in the Federal Register (PDF download)
  • IMBA’s press release
  • The NPS understands that bicycle-based recreation is a big deal. Decision making has shifted towrd the local level to improve flexibility.
  • More opportunities for biking in the NPS can help improve relationships with local communities, enhance access to parks and bring new audiences to the NPS.
  • IMBA’s longstanding partnership agreement with the NPS has been very beneficial.

Part 2: Jamie Fields, an Outdoor Recreation Planner at the New River Gorge National River, discussed how her park has added shared-use trails designed in partnership with IMBA.

  • NPS fundamental values include recreation.
  • The NRG was already a world-famous destination for activities like rock climbing and whitewater paddling
  • Understanding the particular personality of a NPS park is important for proposing trail management changes — get to know park staff and tailor your proposals
  • Order of the Arrow Boy Scouts involvement was a boon for the NRG building effort. They contributed thousands of volunteer hours to creat 15 miles of hand-built singletrack.
  • Read IMBA blog posts about the project.

The IMBA World Summit received generous title sponsorship from the Federal Highway Administration & the Bikes Belong Coalition.
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Trail Classification System Final EN.pdf156.5 KB
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