Trails in urban parks deliver "cheap, dirty fun" for kids, adults
Mountain bikers are reviving parks, neighborhoods and communities across the Midwest
Iowa has been working hard to build more trails in every corner of the state. The reasons are clear: trails improve the local economy and encourage physical activity. However, the resources required to create and maintain trails can be daunting.
At Saturday's Iowa Bicycle Summit in Des Moines, a handful of veteran trailbuilders will describe how they're building trails cheaper, faster and closer to the backdoors of trail users in Decorah, Des Moines, Minneopolis, Omaha and the Quad Cities. Their secret: natural surface trails in urban parks.
"Singletrack is great for cleaning up city parks and getting people outside and moving," said Ryan Hanser, a representative of the International Mountain BIcycling Association and the moderator of the afternoon panel discussion. "These trails fill parks with low-impact users and don't cost much to create or maintain. Natural trails are cheap, dirty fun."
The importance of nearby outdoor recreation is especially important for children, according author Richard Louv and others who've found that that spending time in nature creates longer attention spans and other psychological benefits along with less obesity.
"Planners really need to look at this approach to trail development," said Hanser. "People want to connect to nature and open space, especially when they live in urban areas."
The panel session, titled 'Urban Dirt', is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
Visit http://www.iowabicyclecoalition.org for more information on the session and Iowa Bicycle Summit.
Panelists for the 'Urban Dirt' session include:
Tim Wegner, President, TrailSource
Trail Source is a construction, education and consulting company born out the opportunities to build trails in Minnesota and Wisconsin – opportunities created by the advocacy of Tim Wegner and others within the Minnesota Off Road Cyclists (MORC). Tim was a board member of MORC and served more than a decade as the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) representative for Minnesota, helping grow mountain bike access across the state. As a former board member of American Trails and current member of the Professional Trail Builders Association, Tim carries a wide view of the obstacles and opportunities in creating natural trails inside cities. Tim’s advocacy, volunteerism and professional service have created trails 10 cities and three county parks in the Minneapolis area. Tim is working with the IMBA and others to get more than 22 miles of trail built in 2010 at the Cuyuna Ride Center in Crosby, Minnesota.
Mike Frasier, President, Friends of Off Road Cycling (FORC)
After nearly a decade of mountain biking, Mike joined his local trail-building club in 2000 and is now serving his third term as president. FORC’s volunteers have built trails in three urban parks -- Sunderbruch Park in Iowa and Sylvan Island and Illiniwek Parks in Illinois. FORC will host the Midwest Mountain Bike Festival in 2011 and 2012.
Rich ‘Deke’ Gosen, Oneota River Cycles
Decorah is home to challenging trails and Iowa’s first and longest-running mountain bike race, the Decorah Time Trials started in 1983 by Deke and others who formed an enduring partnership between trail users and the city’s government and businesses. The community’s 18 miles of trail in city parks were built at little cost and draw visitors from across Iowa and nearby states.
Kent McNeill, Co-founder, Velogear and Trek Bicycle Stores of the Midwest
In addition to his responsibilities as an owner of two businesses supporting cycling, Kent serves as chair of the Eastern Nebraska/Western Iowa IMBA club Trails Have Our Respect (THOR) and the leadership team of Activate Omaha, an organization focused on activity and the importance of designing community for active lifestyles. THOR has built and manages trails in several city and state parks in the Omaha metro area.