Kenny Bearden, Administrator – Overland Mountain Bike Club
So now that some of you know a bit more about Overland Mountain Bike Club’s background and volunteer efforts, where are we headed? Why do we do what we do? Well, I’m glad you asked!
Look around at the landscape and terrain we have here in Northern Colorado. Our natural resources and scenic beauty is world-class. But ask almost any mountain biker in town where they go to ride world-class trails; you’ll hear Fruita, Moab, Salida, Curt Gowdy, Steamboat…to name a few. Very few actually say Fort Collins. A recent article from a popular mountain biking source showed user ratings for the “top 300” mountain bike trails in the US. Fort Collins had 1…Blue Sky Trail came in at 217th. Our town is listed in the Top 10 of so many “Best Places to…” lists I’ve lost track. Yet our highest-rated trail comes in at 217th???
Overland is committed to enhancing the mountain biking and overall soft-surface trail experience in Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming. Part of that commitment has been to hire an independent contractor to help identify opportunities and take the lead on making significant improvements to our soft-surface trail systems. I was fortunate enough to be asked to take on this challenge.
Our community has done and is doing a fantastic job of increasing access and connectivity of paved trails. With the current Poudre River, Spring Creek, Mason and Power Trails, the majority of Fort Collins’ residents are a very short walk, run or bike ride from a paved trail system. Once on these paved trails, we have direct access and connectivity to other paved trails around town. It is a wonderful system!
Plans for expanding this into a regional system with the same access and connectivity are widely known and actively moving forward. This is a large part of what is drawing so many people to this region.
So what happens when Fort Collins residents want a similar experience but in a more natural setting on soft-surface trails? We get in our cars, load up our hiking gear or mountain bikes, and drive around the lake to a trailhead. And it’s a beautiful drive! Every time I make that drive I admire the views and appreciate being able to have this in my backyard.
For those who do this same thing on weekends throughout the summer, you know you better spend more time watching the road than the surrounding beauty. With the rapidly increasing number of cyclists, runners, boaters and sight-seers on the roads, staying focused on driving is imperative. So many people are now driving to the trailheads on weekends that nearly all of the parking areas are full by 9am. In order to use the soft-surface trail systems, you better be out of the house by 8:30…at the latest…or you don’t get to play.
So what’s the alternative to driving to these crowded trailheads or riding your mountain bike on congested roads? How about an expanded regional soft-surface trail system that increases access to all users and improves connectivity, without having to drive to a trailhead to get it. One that connects parks and natural areas in town. One that allows trail users to connect to the current trail systems west and south of town. One that gives beginner riders an enjoyable experience and multiple routing options, and one that does the same for our numerous highly skilled riders. One that makes visitors to the region and to the state want to come to Fort Collins for the quality and opportunities of our soft-surface trail system, just as much as they currently go to Fruita and other areas.
Overland took a big step in this direction in 2013 by formulating our Trails Vision Plan. Our goal now and into the foreseeable future is to continue identifying and developing actionable projects in cooperation with our regional land agencies. By doing so, we hope to have an equally accessible and connected system for soft-surface trail users as we do paved.
Administrator – Overland Mountain Bike Club