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IMBA-SORBA Forges Partnership with Georgia’s State Parks

On the heels of a decision to implement a $2 user fee for mountain bike trails in Ft. Yargo, Hard Labor Creek, and Unicoi State Parks, The Georgia Department of Natural Resources State Parks and Historic Sites Division is creating a partnership with IMBA-SORBA to maintain existing trails and create new, model trails, ushering in a new era of quality mountain biking in Georgia’s State Parks. The partnership will benefit mountain bikers who visit Georgia’s State Parks and volunteers who maintain the mountain biking trails in those parks.

“Wer’re looking forward to a stronger relationship with Georgia’s State Parks as we work to enhance and achieve excellent mountain biking in our State Parks,” explains Tom Sauret, IMBA-SORBA’s Executive Director.

Two State Parks have been suggested for model trail development, Chattahoochee Bend and Unicoi. Sauret describes model trail as “trail that is purpose-built for cycling, that is sustainable, and offers an enjoyable experience for all levels of riders. The trails are carefully designed and executed by professional trailbuilders, using state-of-the-art trail building best practices. It’s not always one single trail, but a series of trails, often loops, that are joined, providing options for riders. Beginners can remain on the easier sections, graduating to more difficult sections as their skills progress, while advanced riders can ride on several or all loops that offer varying degrees of difficulty.

Another component of a model trail is distance. Today’s riders are looking for a destination ride, a place where they can spend most or all of the day riding, so the amount of trail available is important. A beginner is generally suited to ride one to five miles, an intermediate five to 12 miles, and an advanced rider may enjoy upwards of 15 miles. A model trail offers an enjoyable experience for each level of rider. ”

The new user fee has been a contentious issue amongst the mountain biking community, but it was born of economic necessity. GA DNR wants our members to realize that the trails targeted for the fees are single-use mountain bike trails, and no other use is encouraged on those trails. Multi-use cycling trails in State Parks do not incur this fee. GA DNR has suffered drastic budget cuts, leaving them to raise fees, cut services, and lay off employees. They have been ordered to raise revenue, and charging a fee for using mountain bike-specific trails is one of the ways they are helping to close the budget gap. “90% of the cost of a trail is the acquisition of land and access, so before any trail project starts, DNR has already made a major contribution, and going forward, will even help build the trail,” says Tim Banks, Assistant Chief of Operations at GA DNR. The department has two trail builders on staff, and IMBA-SORBA has agreed to help train them in the proper techniques and finer points of building sustainable trails for mountain biking.

Much work lies ahead in strengthening our partnership, designing and building new trail, and renewing existing trail, but we’ve made the first step, and the rest will follow. Mountain biking has a bright future in Georgia’s State Parks.