Creating Award-Winning Trail Systems

Presenters: Facilitated by IMBA Government Affairs Interim Director Jeremy Fancher, co-presented by Zach Jarrett (Bureau of Land Management) and Garrett Villanueva (U.S. Forest Service)

Overview: Mountain bikers have achieved great things by planning and building trails in partnership with land managing agencies at the federal, state and local levels. As the scope of trail systems grow, interagency planning often becomes a crucial topic.

More info:

10 Steps for Conceiving, Planning, and Building the Trail System of Your Dreams

By Zach Jarrett, Bureau of Land Management Trail Specialist

01. Increase your numbers. The more riders you represent, the stronger your voice will be. Going to a land manager representing 1,000 riders goes a lot further than representing a single rider.

02. Identify willing land managers. There is no stronger ally for your project than an internal supporter—try to develop a strong relationship with someone within agency ranks.

03. Establish good communication, especially when dealing with multiple agencies. Build trust and establish a clear direction and expectations.

04. Pick up the slack. Volunteer your services to help coordinate focus group meetings, identify key players, assist with inventory of existing trails, offer services for base mapping, etc.

05. Establish your niche. Don’t be redundant; if a trail system already exists in close proximity, maybe you should focus your time and energy on something that would complement the existing resources.

06. Use data to make your case. Gather and compile as much information about potential users as possible. Many states have statewide comprehensive recreation numbers; use them to your advantage.

07. Focus on the positive. Is your land managing partner dismayed that unauthorized trails keep getting built? Cast the builders as a potential pool of dedicated volunteers. Are the current trails overwhelmed by visitors? Show this as a need for new ones. Are there visitor conflicts? Perhaps this points to a demand for mountain bike-only or preferred-use zones.

08. Offer solutions. The majority of land managers are so overwhelmed that they don’t have time to think about the details. Develop a trail plan that identifies additional routes and minimize the amount of time the land manager has to be involved on the conceptual side of the project. Conservation based on recreation should be explained in detail. This is the concept that a lack of high-quality available opportunities will lead to the development of opportunities in areas that are not desirable.

09. Do your homework. Work with land managers to identify sensitive areas, both environmental and archeological. Focus on areas that are non-controversial.

10. Speak the language. Become familiar with NEPA documents, land manager expectations, and limitations with private property land owners and managers. Keep the mountain bike slang and casual “bro-brah” talk to a minimum. Establish a level of professionalism and you will be treated like a professional.