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September 24, 2013
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Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association gets second wind

A 5-year-old nonprofit association for mountain bikers in the Roaring Fork Valley is shifting into a higher gear this fall.

The Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association’s board of directors voted recently to hire a full-time paid executive director. That will help the organization achieve several of its goals, including the expansion of the trail network for a broader skill level of riders, said Charlie Eckert, a founder of the organization and vice president of the board.

“We are just finding it’s getting too challenging to complete the amount of work we have with a voluntary board,” Eckert said.

The organization has established “a lot of credibility” in its five years with local governments and federal land-management agencies in the Roaring Fork Valley, Eckert said. It provided extensive comments to the U.S. Forest Service regarding what trails to maintain and what to declassify when a travel management plan was adopted for the White River National Forest surrounding Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley.

The organization also mapped every trail and weighed into the discussion on expanding wilderness during the Hidden Gems debate. Wilderness prohibits motorized and mechanized uses.

“We fought tooth and nail over very specific trails,” Eckert said. The wilderness proposal is still being crafted or fine tuned by members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation. Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association anticipates playing an ongoing role in the discussion.

To boost its broad-ranging efforts, it’s trying to raise $200,000 to guarantee support for an executive director for three years, according to a fundraising letter recently sent out to members, bike shops and mountain biker trail users.

One focus of the executive director will be completing a valley-wide trails master plan, which will set priorities on the trails Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Associationbelieves should be pursued, according to Eckert.

“We will create a clear path of progress for proposed trail projects by working closely with our many land agency partners, effectively ending an era of bandit trail work,” the fundraising letter said. “Land preservation efforts for and by mountain bikers will guarantee that we have great natural places to ride our mountain bikes.”

Eckert said too few single-track trail options exist in the Roaring Fork Valley for beginners, particularly the Aspen area. Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association wants to work with Aspen Skiing Co., Pitkin County Open Space and Trails and the Forest Service to create new trails.

“In order to open the sport of mountain biking up to a larger portion of the community, and most importantly to the next generation of riders, we intend to focus on the creation of easy, beginner-level, mountain-bike specific single-track trails,” said Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association’s Vision, Mission, Objectives, Strategies and Action paper.

It’s critical that the mountain bikers also maintain the trails, given shrinking budgets for federal land management agencies, Eckert said. The organization will tap its membership to get “boots on the ground” for maintenance projects, he said.

The goal would be to develop a mountain bike trail system that would be recognized by the International Mountain Bicycling Association as a Gold-level Regional Ride Center, Eckert said.

Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association has already applied to become a chapter of the international association. It will likely learn late this fall or early in the winter if it was accepted.

If so, the nonprofit hopes to be invited by the international organization to apply for Gold-level certification of the trail, according to Todd Fugate, a member of the board. Right now, the local network probably qualifies for a bronze designation, according to RFMBA’s estimates. Fugate said it would probably qualify for silver designation if Aspen Skiing Co. proceeds with some new trails at Snowmass Ski Area.

Eventually achieving Gold-level status for the mountain biking trail network would “positively impact our community’s recreation and economic opportunities,” RFMBA’s mission statement and action plan says.

“It would make it more of a destination resort for mountain biking,” Fugate said.

That doesn’t mean the trail network will be flooded with out-of-town riders, he said. Some local riders cringe when the name Moab comes up because they view that as too crowded and overwhelmed. RFMBA isn’t advocating that type of scenario, Fugate said.

Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Associationis looking at mountain biking groups in other areas as models, he said. In Crested Butte, cyclists work well with ranchers and motorized user groups to create and maintain trails. In Grand Junction and Fruita, the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association works “extremely well” with public land management agencies to add diverse trails, Fugate said.

After establishing a paid executive director this year, Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association will go on a membership drive next year. For now, the organization is asking supporters to make a contribution so the executive director can be hired. Contributions can be sent to P.O. Box 2653, Aspen, CO 81612 or the organization can be contacted at info@rfmba.org.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Sep 24, 2013 12:12PM Published Sep 25, 2013 02:51PM Copyright 2013 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.