A New Chapter for Mountain Biking in Orange County
Earlier this year, IMBA launched its multiple membership option which allows folks to be a part of of up to ten IMBA Chapters.
On the member's end, this means being able to support the work of groups in various locations, whether it's trails close to home or mountain biking destinations. For organizations, this allows for more innovative, collaborative, and impactful work. It also removes competition over membership for neighboring Chapters. Because, as mentioned in this guest blog, "better trails are a win for everyone."
Colorado’s reputation as an outdoor mecca is well-earned. Millions of people visit each year for all things outdoors, and many of the people who live here choose this state as home because of the access to public lands and recreation. Colorado’s Front Range is home to 90% of its population, with the highest density centered around Denver. The cities of Boulder and Golden are gateways from the plains to the mountains, and residents and visitors alike head to the foothills in droves to hike, bike, and climb.
The Colorado Mountain Bike Association (COMBA) serves the Denver metro area and the Boulder Mountainbike Alliance (BMA) focuses on Boulder County. Most local mountain bikers ride in both regions, and COMBA and BMA have more than 3,000 combined members. Despite the popularity of mountain biking, there was no bike-only singletrack in the Front Range prior to 2019.
Teaming up for a unique opportunity
An opportunity for COMBA and BMA to collaborate presented itself when the City of Black Hawk acquired the Maryland Mountain open space for the purpose of recreation. Located about 20 miles from Golden and 30 miles from Boulder, Black Hawk made a name for itself first as a mining hub back in the 1860s, then in the 1990s as one of three Colorado towns that allowed gambling and casinos.
The area is soon going to be known as a mountain biking destination. The process took almost 20 years because of longstanding mining claims.
Black Hawk is known for its independent nature, and town leaders jumped into planning their new trail system with both feet. They hired a planner and two trail builders and got to work.
City-owned open space and singletrack trail systems are new to Gilpin County, and there wasn’t a local trail organization already operating in the area. When one of the trail builders hired by Black Hawk reached out to COMBA to seek locals to add to their team, COMBA offered to help with planning and building the system, and sought BMA’s help with the project. BMA and COMBA were stoked to get to work on purpose-built, bike-only downhill trails, a rarity in this area.
BMA and COMBA have been jointly working on the Maryland Mountain project since summer 2020. Each organization has supplied design work, crew leaders, staff time, and volunteers. By partnering, they were able to effectively double community support for the trail area. Volunteer opportunities were promoted through both organizations along with progress updates, trail information, fundraisers, and even t-shirts.
In October 2021, COMBA and BMA recruited Orbea to sponsor the marquee trail Powder Keg, an expert-level bike-only downhill trail which offers a unique experience in the Front Range. With a cash donation and bike giveaway from Orbea combined with a grant from Team Evergreen Cycling, funding was secured to hire Jagged Axe Trail Designs to complete the design and build.
The trail was hand-built using the natural rugged terrain. It features steep technical rock gardens and rock slabs. It also complements the intermediate-level, bike-only trail Fast Money and the more advanced Hard Money.
Better trails are a win for everyone
More trails are in the future, and BMA and COMBA will continue to partner with Black Hawk to help with trail design, construction, and maintenance. Maryland Mountain is setting a new standard for bike-optimized and multi-use trails in the Front Range, and COMBA and BMA expect to continue to work closely together on more trail projects in the future.
Even with this collaboration, they will continue to be their own independently run non-profits. Each has their own mission, priorities and independent areas to focus on outside of Maryland Mountain.
BMA and COMBA are also founding members of the Colorado Mountain Bike Coalition (CMBC), a coalition of Colorado non-profit mountain bike and trail organizations. The CMBC mission is to strengthen the individual and collective impact of Coalition members to protect and expand mountain biking access, address statewide challenges and opportunities, and make positive and lasting changes in communities across Colorado. The CMBC board of directors meet via Zoom at least once a month, keep in touch via Slack, and hold an annual in-person summit.
There’s no competition between COMBA and BMA (well, maybe some friendly competition during membership drives and Colorado Gives Day fundraising) because better trails are a win for everyone. The collaboration facilitates innovation and best use of shared resources and knowledge. And now that mountain bikers can easily belong to more than one IMBA chapter, the organizations can promote membership to a larger area.