Words: Lani Bruntz
Photos:Josh Lawton | Jordan Carr
Have you ever wondered what went into developing your favorite trail? Who built it? What type of land is it on? Where did the funding or man-hours come from? Growing up in mountainous, trail-centric, Vail, Colorado and fortunate enough to be able to choose where to live largely based on access to trails and open space, I had been naïve about these thoughts. With trails meandering right out my backdoor, I knew I valued access to trails from a very early age. But I will be the first to admit it, I had no idea how much time and effort goes into the development of trails. So, over a year ago, I set out to find a way to be a part of it all.
For the past 14 months, my boyfriend and I have been living meagerly out of a brightly wrapped Subaru Outback adorned with two Trek bikes, our gear for two years, and a Yakima box full of trail building tools, advocating for mountain bikers throughout the entire country. We are called the Trail Care Crew and represent the International Mountain Bicycling Association, working on the ground level with a different community every weekend. Sometimes that means providing training for land managers, meeting with local elected officials and planners, or a leading volunteer trail building school. Other times it means riding and socializing and getting others excited about how they can be involved. In a nutshell, we are on a mission to learn from area’s successes and failures and pass these best practices on to the next community, weekend after weekend.
Sound pretty good, right? Traveling the country, spreading the good word about mountain bike trails, riding trails in unassuming places and also the top-notch trail meccas we all dream about visiting. After one year on the road, we have visited and ridden in communities from Ithaca, New York, to San Diego, California and many in-between. While riding mountain bikes inspired us to pack up, downsize, and move into a car, we have become very passionate about the work we do because of the people we work with. We are warmly welcomed into every community by local mountain bikers eager to improve their local trails. The passion and energy these individuals devote to their trail systems keeps us trucking along on our journey. We get to see how successful trail development can take place, even in the most unassuming locations, and then pass on those best practices.
If there is one critical piece to the never-ending puzzle of trail development, it is community. We ride bikes because it is fun, it is challenging, it gives us an escape, and it gets us into nature. It is because of the trails that we ride bikes, and it is this shared love for that blissful experience maneuvering two wheels on dirt that builds a community. It’s not only those relationships within the mountain bike community, but between other trail users and the broader community; local business owners, land managers and decision makers. These relationships take time and effort, like all relationships. It takes a vision and a plan enticing enough to build a stronger trail community. It takes each and every one of us to be a part of our local communities to improve trail development for future generations.