With continued population growth in the state of Colorado, our trail systems have experienced an exponential degree of stress and strain. As more and more people are drawn to this mountain biking mecca we call home, environmental and economic sustainability issues begin to emerge. The Colorado Department of Natural Resources (CDNR) recognizes this issue and has begun exploring trail development and maintenance funding options… which leads us to the “mildly” contentious issue of trail user fees. Currently on the table is a bill proposed by CDNR to require a $25 annual registration fee to ride many of the trails in the state of Colorado.

CDNR originally presented the trail user fee in 2017 at a Colorado Mountain Bike Summit hosted by the Overland Mountain Bike Association (OMBA). From these discussions OMBA, Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association (Aspen) and the Colorado Mountain Bike Association (Denver) combined efforts to bring all major Colorado mountain bike groups together for a weekend of meetings in Crested Butte. Ultimately, the bill did not receive a majority of support from those in attendance. Objection to the bill was mostly in response to the financial burden placed on mountain bikers specifically and the 20% allocation to administrative overhead.

The collective position of these mountain bike groups was expressed through a formal letter submitted by Pete Piccolo, executive director of Bicycle Colorado. With only 40% support from the mountain bike organizations involved in these discussions, a recent Bicycle Colorado post indicates that the bill is unlikely to pass in 2020. Similar efforts failed in Wyoming under HB0272 requiring car decals at $15/year. Innaction is not an option; however, and further work is needed to craft a bill that will garner the support of the Colorado mountain bike community.

OMBA executive director, Kenny Bearden, intends to continue his direct involvement in exploring funding sources for new and existing trails. According to Bearden, there are currently well over 40 trail projects throughout the state of Colorado in need of funding at a cost of over $25M. This estimate does not include the ongoing issue of maintenance and rerouting of existing trails. From Bearden’s perspective, harnessing the support of stakeholders is all about framing the issue in a positive context. Threatening user fees on the outset tends to aggravate and deter even the most avid of riders. Instead, Bearden would like to initiate the stakeholder discussion by posing a more positive, proactive question around the development of a funding program that supports MTB-optimized trails statewide. 

We live in a unique mountain biking town that offers easy access to an extensive network of trails and even provides protected bike lanes to help get you there safely. The continued support and growth of this incredible resource is an important part of getting more people on bikes and therefore supports the mission of Bike Fort Collins.

BFC looks forward to staying on top of this issue in 2020 and will be sure to keep our readers informed as more details are available.

And in the meantime, consider joining Overland Mountain Bike Association!