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Idaho tops states on mountain biking report card
Idaho, a recreation destination that boasts more than 14,000 miles of single-track mountain bike trails, received the highest marks of all states in the International Mountain Bicycling Association's first report card.
"The letter grades that we are assigning to each state provide both a benchmark for progress and an easy way to compare one state with another," said Tim Blumenthal, executive director of IMBA. "While the report card, in sum, is unquestionably subjective, we're confident that it will help mountain bike advocates measure improvement in their state."
IMBA staff and state representatives worked with members of local mountain biking clubs to compilethe report card. Grades were based on several factors: estimated miles of single-track trails, trail and land management, relations with other user groups and the long-term outlook for mountain biking.
Idaho is the only state to receive a solid A on IMBA's report card. "The state has a lot of public land and it's pretty rural. There aren't a lot of people there, and that reduces user conflicts," said Dan Vardamis, advocacy coordinator for IMBA. "It's a recreational mecca. And I think the land managers there are more open to trails for mountain biking that are environmentally responsible."
Idaho's high ranking also owes to the fact that the state has demonstrated a history of shared land use, said IMBA representative Harley Parsons.
Some state residents are concerned about too many mountain bikers and bike trails.
"We'll love to death our trails," said Parsons. "And probably get kicked off or lose access because we're not responsible enough to police ourselves."
The IMBA gave South Dakota a grade of A-, based in part on the fast rides near Rapid City.
"(The Black Hills) has the feel of the Rockies without the severe altitude or severely long climbs. Rapid City is at 3,200 feet and sits at the foot of the Black Hills, which rise at their highest point (Harney Peak) to over 7,000 feet," explained Phil Busching, president of the Black Hills Mountain Bike Association. "The terrain is fairly rugged and rocky with spells of smooth, undulating single track through Ponderosa Pine, and there are not many regions 30 by 100 miles that offer as much breathtaking scenery. In other words, you get a lot of bang for your buck."
"Additionally, with so many trails in danger of being shut down in popular riding states like Colorado and California, it is refreshing to find a place with prime riding that is in danger of being lost only because we don't have enough riders to keep the trails beat in," said Busching.
Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah and West Virginia all received a grade of B+ based on their vast stretches of quality mountain biking terrain and relative lack of user conflict. Michigan and Maryland also received B+ grades for their innovative advocacy work.
A handful of states will have to work long and hard to improve their grades. Ohio, Louisiana and Kansas all received Ds. Legal trails are hard to find in Ohio, a reflection of state park management. Louisiana is still developing effective mountain biking leadership. Kansas' off-road cyclists must contend with a strong farm lobby reluctant to give up land for public use.
"Areas with a lot of public land generally have good access," said Vardamis. "A lot of the problems we see are in urban areas where a lot of people want to recreate, but there's not enough land."
Copyright 2000, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved
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