Fat Tire Society makes a difference
Have you ever wondered, as you fly down a smooth section of singletrack somewhere in Summit County, why it is we have some of the best mountain biking terrain in the country? It’s because our extensive network of trails has been built, maintained and retained by a group of dedicated volunteers who are passionate about the sport they love.
The Summit Fat Tire Society (FTS) was established in 1990 by an avid biker named Mike Zobbe, who had been linking rides out of burro paths, old mining roads and game trails since 1984. Back then, you didn’t use maps to follow a trail. Trails were discovered through riding until you got lost – and hopefully finding your way back by sundown. Zobbe, along with several other local pioneers of the sport, initially thought all these trails traveled over mining claims. Unfortunately, most of their riding terrain ran through private property.
With the real estate boom of the late 1980s and early ’90s, development of private lands quickly became an issue to mountain bikers. Developers and landowners closed access to many trails that ran through their lands. Zobbe became concerned at the growing number of trail closures and addressed the Breckenridge Town Council with the issue.
From that day, FTS has been making a difference for bikers and hikers alike.
Early advocacy efforts began with town planners to preserve trails in the face of fast-paced development and a to encourage a philosophy of “responsible use.”
“If I use it, I need to take care of it,” was one of their early mottoes. FTS is now an established member of the International Mountain Bike Association.
In addition to trail advocacy, FTS has grown into one of the county’s largest trail-building-and-maintaining organizations. They do this through a terrific group of volunteers who work hard to build new trails, reroute old ones and take care of many others. In the last 10 years, FTS has performed $150,000 worth of work on trails within the community. It has done extensive work on the Wheeler Trail, Peaks Trail and Blue River Trail, to name a few. FTS also has adopted a section of the Colorado Trail it maintains annually.
Through fund-raising such as the annual bike swap and Poker Ride, FTS contributes monetarily to organizations such as the Continental Divide Trail and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps for their countywide community service initiatives.
Another effort FTS has made is to introduce youth to the sport of mountain biking. It collaborates with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and Mountain Mentors to educate kids in trail respect and rider responsibility codes.
“Working with youth volunteers is really fun; it’s a real different perspective than on adult projects. They remind you of the importance of why you’re out there,” volunteer Lynn Donovan said.
Most recently, FTS volunteer Mike McCormack has been working hard to establish a youth mountain bike club called, “Mountain Bike Little League.” This club will offer young kids with mountain bike instruction and teach them about etiquette and trail responsibility. Participants also ride in the Summit Mountain Challenge races around the county.
Last, but not least, FTS has been an active participant each year for Make A Difference Day (MDDAY). At the first two Make A Difference Days, volunteers re-routed an access trail system to the Little Mountain trail behind the Steven C. West Ice Arena, and last year, volunteers built a new access route to the Soda Creek Trail.
“We really appreciate the volunteers provided to us on MDDAY. It allows us an additional project each year,” Donovan said.
In short, this grassroots, nonprofit organization has gone above and beyond to make a difference in our community. Many of us can be thankful when we enjoy a wonderful ride that we have the volunteers at FTS to keep our trails open, safe and well-maintained.
For more information on how to become involved with Fat Tire Society, call JD Donovan at (970) 668-3854 or Mike Zobbe at (970) 453-5548.
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