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Decent trails require community commitment

Keith Sanders
Mountain Biking with Keith
Keith Sanders
Staff Photo |

I’m often torn when picking a subject for my weekly article on mountain biking. Rides with good pictures tend to be the most popular when you gauge website views, Facebook shares and other means of tracking.

Of course who doesn’t like to hear about that great ride. It may be one of your favorites or a trail that has yet to meet you. The articles I feel are most important, advocacy, trail info etc. tend to have the lowest traffic and views, which is ironic as without the efforts to build and maintain a trail system we wouldn’t have trails.

Our economy is primarily driven by outdoor recreation. We don’t have industry and we won’t in the foreseeable future. Most of us have chosen to live here due to the outdoor recreational opportunities Grand County offers.

It is readily apparent that trails are a major factor if not the major factor in the Grand County economy. On the mountain bike side we have Trestle and Granby Ranch bike parks, which were built due to a substantial commitment to biking from Winter Park Resort and Granby Ranch. Mountain biking is growing on the cross country trails that abound in the county.

“Trails aren’t free. It takes a substantial amount of time and money to develop and maintain our trails. Yet outside of the Town of Winter Park our financial commitment from public entities to trails is anemic.”

Any given day in the Winter Park and Fraser area you will find locals and tourist riding on the trails. Our trail system reaches all types of users be it mountain bikers, hikers, runners, equestrians, snowmobilers, cross country skier and anyone who uses a trail. Take those away and our county would struggle, much like taking oil away from the middle east.

The Colorado Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan states that in the northwest region of Colorado outdoor recreation results in $6.9 billion in direct spending and that one-third of the adult population is employed in that area. Trails aren’t free. It takes a substantial amount of time and money to develop and maintain our trails. Yet outside of the Town of Winter Park our financial commitment from public entities to trails is anemic.

Our economy continues to struggle throughout the county. There is no magical answer to what we can do to make it better but capitalizing on outdoor recreation has proven to be a successful method to create economic growth. Investing in outdoor recreation can increase tax revenue in the areas of sales tax and property values. Headwaters Trails Alliance (HTA) is recognized by local governments and government agencies including the US Forest Service and BLM as the point trail group for trails in Grand County. Their efforts and successes directly impact our economy to such a degree that they are one of the most important entities working with outdoor recreation in Grand County, coming in line behind Winter Park Resort and Granby Ranch. HTA’s efforts support all outdoor recreation. Their limiting factor is funding as we as a community have not seriously invested in outdoor recreation. Locally funding last year for HTA was:

• Town of Winter Park (note they spent substantial money through their own trail efforts) $3,500

• Fraser $4,500

• Grand Lake $3,000

• Kremmling $1,000

• Grand County $46,500

Our trail system is at a crossroads, not just in the Winter Park area but throughout the county. There needs to be adequate permanent funding to support our trails This week voters in Winter Park and Fraser went to the polls and approved a sales tax increase that can fund trails in the Winter Park and Fraser area.

In the past the Town of Winter Park and Grand County have been the major sources of trail funding. Winter Park has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars toward the trail system by building and maintaining trails as well as funding the marketing efforts for Mountain Bike Capital USA . Grand County has helped fund Headwaters Trails Alliance. On the flip side currently Grand County’s preliminary budget figures show a drop in funding of 30 percent for Headwaters Trails Alliance, which puts their projected contribution to around $30,000, down from the funding of $46,500 of this year.

Should Grand County reduce funding for Headwaters Trails Alliance, then areas outside of Winter Park and Fraser will be most negatively impacted in the long term with the towns of Hot Sulphur Springs, Granby and Kremmling having the most to lose. Very little has been done in those areas with trails(it takes funding AND involvement from the community), yet they have the ability to create immediate noticeable economic impact by creating trails from the towns to public land. This would improve the access for residents and create an additional economy and product that is currently not available there. Isn’t it time we stepped up as communities and took that step of investing in trails and outdoor recreation?

Group rides

Beavers Sports Shop at the Best Western in Winter Park weekly group ride is now over for the season. Come join us this spring as soon as conditions will allow 970-726-5988

Looking for more information? Like Grand Mountain Bike Alliance (GMBA) on Facebook. GMBA is your local mountain bike group. Check out Mountainbikecapitalusa.com. Great site by the Winter Park Chamber!

Keith Sanders is the President of the Grand Mountain Bike Alliance, 3x US National Mountain Bike Champion and owner of Beavers Sports Shop. You can reach him at keith@winterparkskirental.com.


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