Let’s talk about mountain bike access
At Bicycle Colorado, we know how much our members and supporters love Colorado’s beautiful landscape and mountain bike trails. We have many mountain bikers in our community, and as our state’s population continues to grow, the number of bicyclists is growing as well.
We’re thrilled to see more people riding bikes on Colorado’s trails. However, there is a challenge looming on the horizon: our current trail system will be unable to support the state’s population and tourism growth unless there is an increase in funding to expand and maintain our trail network. Without additional funding, some of our most popular and iconic trails will experience overcrowding, and the quality of the trails and trailheads will decline. Signs of stress are already visible on several trails across the state.
Most people working on the front lines of mountain bike advocacy understand that funding trail construction and maintenance is not easy and that our state’s population growth will create more stress on trails unless something changes. On the other hand, these challenges are less clear to the everyday rider, which may begin to explain why programs that require bicyclists to pay to ride are not widely popular with the general public.
We’ve experienced firsthand how complicated identifying a solution is while working with mountain bike advocates to understand and respond to a recent issue: the Department of Natural Resources’s desire to introduce legislation that would add a $25 annual registration fee for people to ride on many of the single-track trails in the state. The Department of Natural Resources facilitated multiple meetings over the past year in an effort to craft a bill that would win the support of Bicycle Colorado and local mountain bike advocacy groups. In the end, most local advocacy groups and Bicycle Colorado decided not to support the bill, despite our desire to solve this funding challenge.
Bicycle Colorado drafted a letter to the Department of Natural Resources on behalf of participating mountain bike advocacy organizations to explain our position. A copy of this letter can be found here.
Since there isn’t support from the mountain bike community, we anticipate the Department of Natural Resources will not pursue this fee legislation in 2020. If things change, we will let you know. However, even if the Department does not pursue legislative action, this does not mean that the problem is solved.
Bicycle Colorado is currently working with a handful of organizations across the state to map out a game plan moving forward. Identifying a solution will not be easy—a variety of issues need to be considered, such as habitat conservation, wildlife management, other trail user groups and equity, just to name a few. Despite the size and complexity of the challenge, taking no action is not an option. The health of our public lands and the quality of our recreational experiences depends on identifying a solution.
We look forward to continuing this conversation with you to chart a path forward.