Summit Mountain Biking continues to foster, improve local mountain-biking network
DILLON – Nearly two decades after a simple lunch conversation spawned the Summit Mountain Biking group, the 160-member cycling community continues to give back each summer.
Along with annual trail work projects, Summit Mountain Biking hopes to use the charitable capital and reliable reputation they’ve earned in 18-plus years out on the trails to help bring ambitious mountain biking improvements to Summit County.
“The production they deliver with projects can’t be replicated with staff work and all that,” said Doozie Martin, programs manager for the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District. “These guys have developed their own skill when it comes to this thing. They’ve become self-sufficient. Really, what they can produce on a project-to-project and season-to-season basis is extraordinary.”
Technically, Summit Mountain Biking is an unofficial group of 160 members — 60 of whom are active — connected in a Google Group email list. Wayne Haley, one of the group’s co-founders, said the group has deliberately remained with a loose structure without officers, dues or nonprofit status because he and other leaders felt it would result in less burn out as well as more group members feeling they can step up to lead rides or trips.
Back in the group’s formative stages in 2002, Haley and others started by simply organizing group rides and trips for summer Thursdays. As the years progressed, more rides took place on more days of the week while the group expanded its trail work.
For years members of the group have helped to build many of the new trails in Summit County. Group member Larry Kelly of Silverthorne estimates the group puts in 150 days of manpower each year. Over time, the group has helped build, maintain and improve such trails as B&B, Turk’s, Minnie Mine, X10U8, Wirepatch, Toad Alley and others.
In 2008 the group launched its first big organized effort, with 20 members in Breckenridge building what was then the new Nightmare on Baldy trail. That experience propelled the group a year later to become an Adopt-a-Trail partner with Friends of the Dillon Ranger District.
“We all know the Forest Service has neither the manpower nor the budget to maintain the very extensive trail network in Summit County,” Haley said. “So, as trail users, we feel an obligation to give back to help maintain the trails.”
Summit Mountain Biking has put in more than 30 major workdays and 5,000 hours of trail maintenance through the years. Most recently, that has included working with Forest Service Dillon Ranger District trail specialists Cindy Ebbert and Tyler Kirkpatrick to develop and implement a multi-year program of sustainable improvements in the Soda Creek Valley network, including three major reroutes to the Groovy Uvi trail, four major reroutes on Soda Creek and a complete rebuild of the northern 2 plus miles of the Red Trail.
Overall, the reroutes — a few of which have been completed and most of which are still planned — are intended to get the trails out of wetlands and up onto more sustainable terrain. The work exemplifies the group’s core mission to be a part of the public lands process so trails that are popular among mountain bikers can be built in a way most suitable for the sport.
“Many of our trails were unsustainable because they were never planned, but resulted from mining trails, ranch roads or social trails,” Haley said. “We found ourselves going back multiple times fixing sections of trails that could not be fixed for more than a season or two, Band-Aid work as we called it.”
Summit Mountain Biking is doing that work hand-in-hand with a sister organization in the Summit County Mountain Bike Alliance, which evolved out of the old Summit Fat Tire Society. The groups have become collaborators in getting the Soda Creek Valley work done while also envisioning a grand future of possibilities for Summit County mountain biking. The collaboration began with a pair of trail workdays in mid-July when 45 volunteers completed the first reroute of Groovy Uvi, including 1,600 feet of new trail. Kirkpatrick and the Forest Service as well as McGill Trail Fabrications significantly aided the effort.
More trail workdays to progress the Soda Creek Valley plans will occur later this summer. In the future, the groups hope to work with Summit County Open Space to develop what they describe as a “ride center” for mountain biking, potentially on Tenderfoot Mountain.
Tom Liston, a member of Summit Mountain Biking and the chair of the trails committee for the Summit County Mountain Bike Alliance, said alliance board member Eric Cutler is leading the Tenderfoot trail development project. It’s one the two groups hope one day will bring a mountain biking network the caliber of Emerald Mountain in Steamboat Springs to Summit County.
“As far as their ambition, we will support (Summit Mountain Biking) in whatever way we can,” Martin said. “…(Friends of the Dillon Ranger District) will back whatever efforts they get approved to work on going forward, support their dreams and goals.”
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