RFMBA was invited to submit a column to the Sopris Sun’s Bike Bits feature. Here’s a copy of the column that was published this week.
Mountain Bike Association hires first full-timer.
RFMBA also joins international group.
By Mike Pritchard
With recent snowstorms blanketing local mountains, outdoor lovers in the Roaring Fork Valley are now officially in winter season mode. Some of us are getting skis and winter gear ready for weekend adventures. There are at least a few of us who are lowering air pressure in fat-tire bike tires and prepping for after-work night rides on the snow. And yet, some of us are already thinking about the upcoming spring and summer, when we’ll be back on those flowing ribbons of dirt on our local mountain bike trail systems.
Mountain bikers in the Roaring Fork Valley are blessed with a canvas of unparalleled beauty. We’ve also inherited a great number of places to visit using two wheels under our own power. Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association (RFMBA) formed in 2008 with a mission to create and sustain the best possible mountain bike trail system in our valley. In the 1980s and 1990s, mountain bikers in the San Francisco area experienced the initial wave of trails being closed to the sport. The lesson learned was that mountain bikers needed to transition from opportunistic to involved and organized. Since its inception, RFMBA has been coordinating with local land managers and advocating for mountain bikers.
This past year brought significant steps in the organization’s evolution. While long affiliated as a club, RFMBA is now a chapter of IMBA, the International Mountain Bicycling Association. As a chapter, we utilize shared resources. Our joint memberships, whereby each constituent becomes a member of RFMBA and IMBA, limit the burdens of running a mountain bike trails advocacy organization. With this renewed focus, along with generous funding and business sponsorships, RFMBA hired its first staff member. I’m fortunate to have been filling the role of executive director on a half-time basis since the beginning of 2014, and as of this month, on a full-time basis.
Why think about dirt trails when there’s powder and corduroy to focus on? Gaining approvals for trails on federal lands can take years. Beyond the required environmental studies, land management agencies are underfunded. The work we provide helps to accelerate the seemingly glacial process. From conceptual planning with maps, to flagging re-routes and new trails in the field, to coordinating volunteer events with our partner organization, Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, we’re always focused on outcomes that provide the best experience for mountain bikers.
What can mountain bikers expect in 2015 and beyond? Earlier this year, Aspen Snowmass was designated a bronze level IMBA Ride Center. This designation means that we’ve got a well-rounded trail system (especially because of the new trails at Sky Mountain Park) that offers up day after day of great riding experiences. With the Upper Roaring Fork Trails Plan (draft expected this winter), we want to create the “best possible” trail system. Everyone is anticipating the final signing of the BLM’s Resource Management Plan. This nearly 8-year-long process is expected to result in a Special Management Area for The Crown. This SMA will likely focus on improving mountain bike opportunities on both the Carbondale and El Jebel sides of this large plot of federal land. This summer, we helped design a trail that will access The Crown from the Rio Grande Trail near Rock Bottom Ranch. This trail, and another on the Glassier Open Space could be constructed in the next 10 to 20 months. This past fall, the Glenwood Springs Area Concept Trails Plan effort was kicked off with a large public meeting and online surveys. This Concept Trails Plan will be issued this winter and sets the stage for trail reroutes and construction projects.
With planning and advocacy efforts ongoing throughout our valley, there is one outcome that both mountain bikers and our community should be interested in achieving: An IMBA-designated Regional Ride Center, especially when achieved at the highest gold level, would provide world class trails and amenities for both locals and visitors.
How can we grow our mountain bike community to achieve these goals? Become a member of RFMBA. Support our continued work through a business sponsorship or a generous donation. Volunteer on trail maintenance and creation projects with us. Get out there, ride hard, be friendly and become a part of mountain biking’s future.
Mike Pritchard was a founding board member of RFMBA and now serves as executive director. A portion of his time is dedicated to advancing mountain bike opportunities beyond the Roaring Fork Valley as an associate region director for IMBA. Learn more and become a member at rfmba.org/membership.