Success in State Parks

Presenters: Greg Lein, Alabama State Parks, Paul Gritten, Wyoming State Parks; Courtland Nelson, Minnesota State Parks

Overview: State parks are vitally important to mountain bikers. Learn from real world success stories, including the planning, building and maintenance strategies behind thriving trail systems.

Main conclusions: In Alabama, state park leaders have come to see mountain biking as a growth area for participation, but this requires investments in facilities and staff. Wyoming state parks have focused on MTB at Curt Gowdy and Glendo, earning high praise from riders in a multi-state region. In Minnesota, the Cuyuna State Recreation Area has transformed both the environment and the local community.

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Greg Leins: After an introduction to Alabama State park system and the current MTB trails ( Oak Mountain, Chewacla, Monte Sano) and a look at potential new sites (Joe Wheeler, Walls of Jericho), Mr. Leins went on to make these points and ask the following questions:

  • State parks must serve multiple users and often have more limited space to address all needs.
  • Alabama is rethinking and actively revising the 1970’s vision of what a state park is.
  • Alabama has reviewed mountain biking in the last few years and attitudes  towards the activity have gone from negative (Mtbers tear up the land ) to positive
  • Mtbers have become a unified , organized group that leads the thinking of what a sustainable trial is and they are willing to spend volunteer time and seek funding to create trails in Alabama State parks.)

The state parks realize that they need:

  1. Professional specialists to support a mountain bike trail system.
  2. A dedicated crew of workers.
  3. A new form of dedicated funding to support the activity.

State parks are self-supporting in Alabama and they must find a way to fund this new activity. What will be the revenue steam to support mountain biking? What if State parks approached managing mountain biking as it does golf? What would a pay-to-play revenue source look like? A license? A park pass? An annual subscription?

Alabama State parks will work to answer these questions to come up with a solid plan.

2. Paul Gritten: Mr. Gritten began with an overview of mountain biking in Wyoming State parks focusing on tow major successes: Curt Gowdy and Glendo State parks.
Wyoming realized that mountain biking in State parks would:

  1. Diversify experience
  2. Extend the season
  3. Add a new user group
  4. Expand revenue
  5. Create a “destination” and create multiple day use

Wyoming understands mountain bikers desire good trails, epic experiences, new events, publicity and promotion, and signage & amenities. Wyoming seeking to fulfill these desires, faces the following challenges:

  1. Funding
  2. User conflicts
  3. Overuse of resource
  4. Maintenance issues
  5. Vandalism

A discussion followed about strategies to address the issues. The presentation ended with success stories of Curt Gowdy and Glendo State parks.

3. Courtland Nelson: Running out of session time, Mr. Nelson focused on how mountain biking has transformed State parks and the communities that surround and support them. Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area was an area that was repurposed from mining to recreation. Some of the challenges that Cuyuna faced included

  1. User conflict
  2. Unmanaged access
  3. Local government expectations
  4. Underdeveloped resources

These challenges were met by the partnership among State Parks, a friends group, mountain bikers, IMBA, and a motorized group. Leadership in all of these organizations was committed to developing this recreation area and moved the project forward.

With this coalition Cuynua located funding, a trail design and plan on how to move forward. Form partnerships between public/private entities to get a project moving. Be aware of the different cultures and their expectations and anticipate how to accommodate them and search for common ground when undertaking a trail project.