Mountain bike race organizer explains policies on use of trails |

Mountain bike race organizer explains policies on use of trails

Guest commentary, Jeff Westcott, director of operations and co-owner of Maverick Sports Promotions

In response to the July 14 letter about mountain biking by Denny Ells, I offer the following responses:

I thank him for his recognition of what Maverick Sports Promotions has brought to the community. His observations were flattering and gracious.

I would like to point out that many of the items on his wish list are already in place.

First on the list is his desire to step up efforts to minimize trail abuse before an event.

It’s important to remember that many of the trails in our area were built before the concept of “sustainability” was conceived. A sustainable trail is one that is designed to manage water runoff and endure years of use with minimal impact.

The mining industry is responsible for the infrastructure of our trail network. Water management and erosion issues were not high on its list of priorities. Ore extraction was.

That resulted in the construction of many fall-line-oriented trails and roads as miners looked for the shortest route between points A and B to move ore from a mining claim. We are left with that legacy. We recreate where they worked.

There was only one area of the Firecracker 50 course that could be called a “mud bog.” Just southeast of the Mountain Pride mine is a wet section of trail about 30 feet across.

IMBA protocol dictates that one should ride through the wet section of trail. To dismount encourages people to walk around the wet section. This leads to “braiding,” and the trail gets wider and wider.

Braiding has taken place in this area, as users of all types have created a short bypass to the side of the wet section.

This particular wet area has been an early-season problem for years. I have visited the site twice since the Firecracker 50, and the damage is no worse than before the race.

The braiding is new and that is unfortunate. The good news is that a reclamation plan has already been discussed. Most of the Firecracker 50 course is “bomber.”

Its total length is 132,000 feet (one lap), and it was designed by Summit Fat Tire Society president Mike Zobbe with sustainability in mind.

I agree with Mr. Ells that it would be best to repair every problem area in the backcountry before it is used. That process is under way and answers the second point on Mr. Ells’ wish list: his plea for more cooperation between the entities in the community that have jurisdiction over the trail system.

The Dillon Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service, the Summit County Open Space and Trails Department and the Town of Breckenridge Open Space and Trails Department all work very closely with each other on the very issues you cite.

If you could be a fly on the wall during the phone calls that take place on a daily basis between these groups, you would be amazed.

It’s not all about acquisition. First, land is acquired for open space in perpetuity. Then a travel management plan is designed. Finally, construction of new trails and maintenance of existing trails is implemented.

The town of Breckenridge and Summit County have created Adopt-a-Trail programs with great success. All three entities are working together on the Golden Horseshoe Project.

This is a huge undertaking and will determine recreational use in the backcountry for years to come. Their jobs are daunting and they do them very well. There are hundreds of miles of trails out there that need attention.

It will take time to get to every problem area. These entities are the very ones that Maverick submits permit applications to for permission to run events. At times, we are told we cannot use this trail or that because of impact. They are on top of things.

Next on Mr. Ells’ wish list is a desire to see the Summit Fat Tire Society become more of a voice in the community. The Summit Fat Tire Society is responsible for many of the sustainable trails that exist today.

The organization predates both open space programs in the county. Once those programs were born, in 1995 and 1996, the Fat Tire Society became less of a voice and more of an agent for the entities that actually govern the lands.

That is the single most important reason for the Fat Tire Society’s low-key image. It’s not a lack of momentum as much as a change of focus. Before the open space programs, the Fat Tire Society was the only advocate for trail issues. Now that burden can be shared amongst all groups involved in trail access issues. Mr. Ells’ ideas for the Fat Tire Society to promote biker public relations within the county are valid. Anyone who has been involved in volunteer organizations knows that it is 20 percent of the people who do 100 percent of the work.

Change happens by getting involved. Mike McCormack, who is praised by Mr. Ells, is a new board member of the Summit Fat Tire Society. The change is coming.

For Maverick’s part, we have instituted several programs that address Mr. Ells’ valid concerns. Maverick Sports employs four full-time employees solely dedicated to trail maintenance and trail construction. We have a standing policy that we will fix anything we break. If there is a problem, we hear about it.

In 2002 Maverick Sports Promotions created the Mountain Bike Little League. This season 160 juniors are enrolled in this program. Twelve group rides are scheduled throughout the summer. The purpose is to educate a whole new generation of mountain bikers. Issues that are covered include etiquette, riding techniques and trail construction. Our goal is to empower these kids to “own” the backcountry. It’s working! All are welcome to attend these group rides.

In closing, I wish to address a separate yet related matter:

The Maverick Sports Web site and on-site literature included a dissertation to racers about proper methods of trash disposal.

The racers were told to consume product near the aid stations and drop the refuse. If racers chose to consume product later, they were instructed to pocket the waste and discard it at the next aid station.

Aid station staff members then cleaned up in their vicinities. This worked well. However, it’s the few bad apples that spoil the bunch. Some of them discarded water bottles and food wrappers in remote locations.

Every course arrow, with the exception of four, was removed within 24 hours of the event. The course from Main Street Breckenridge to the Iowa Mill, and from the Juniata Trail to finish, was cleaned up within 24 hours of the event. This included water bottles and empty energy product wrappers.

On Sunday, July 6, Maverick employees worked on another project. The intention was to split the day between this other job and then transition back to cleanup.

The crew suffered a mechanical breakdown that took the whole day to remedy. This incident delayed the full cleanup of the Firecracker 50 course until Monday July 7.

Unfortunately, Sunday, July 6, was a huge day in the backcountry and the remaining items were seen by many people. Course cleanup was complete July 7.

There is already a plan in place for next year to clean up everything within 24 hours of the race.

I would like to thank:

– Chuck Ginsburg of A Racer’s Edge for removing arrows.

– Dr. Keith Doty of Family Dental Center for helping on July 5.

– Jeffrey Bergeron and Dr. PJ for getting the few arrows that were in Little French Gulch.

– Scott Reed of Summit County Open Space for directing me to the Little French Gulch area to pick up energy product wrappers.

– Lee Frost and his crew at Tiger Run Tours for its help in the Golden Horseshoe.

– Eric Mamula for picking up a pile of blown tubes that were tossed to the side of Sally Barber Road.

– All who contributed to the success of this event.

In the spirit of “taking care of our own backyard,” we endeavor to continue to improve our execution of the Firecracker 50.

There was a buzz in town about this event. We are honored and humbled by the opportunity to produce it.

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