Registration is Open for the 2017 Shorts Brewing Co. Traverse City Trail Fest!

Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association's biggest fundraiser of the year is July 22. You can help support our trail maintenance and advocacy efforts by having an unbelievably fun day in the woods with friends. Yep. That's all you have to do. 

Registration for the 40 mile race, 40 mile tour, 25 mile race, 25 mile tour and kids' events are all open. If you have questions, please let us know! 

We have to thank all of our sponsors, including our title sponsor, Short's Brewing Co. Short's has always been an enthusiastic partner, and without their support, NMMBA wouldn't be able to take on all of our projects. From winter grooming to summer trail maintenance, their support, and the support of all our sponsors, adds up beyond dollars. It's the commitment to our community that really has value! 

For the racers, Tom White has put together a great course that takes some of the best singletrack in the Pere Marquette forests and weaves together trail systems that many riders don't always connect on a single ride. Aside from the first and last few miles getting out of Ranch Rudolf, this is a true singletrack smorgasbord, and we can't wait to see some of the local mountain bike legends show their stuff. 

We'll keep you updated on the race favorites, plus any groups that are planning to ride the 40 mile or 25 mile tours and stick together. Want to learn how to navigate some of these trails? Want to show your pals the world-class trails in our backyard? Here's your chance! 

Registration is LIVE! right here: Get Signed Up Today! 

Motorin' Into PA 288 ORV Changes

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources met to continue discussions on just how and where ORV users can access trails on state land around the state. Here in Traverse City, most ORV traffic takes places east of the Vasa trail network, although many ORVs access those trails using forest roads and two tracks that criss-cross both designated and unofficial non-motorized trails. It's an issue of access, sustainability, conservation, and fairness, and it's a conversation NMMBA has enjoyed a passionate and active voice in since the beginning. 

Throughout these talks, we've maintained a positive and inclusive stance with three main interests at heart. 

First, we want all discussions to center around maintaining a level of safety for all trail users, both motorized and non-motorized. We understand that intersection and mixed-use trails increase the likelihood of accidents, and we want to work with all trail users to reduce the chances of collisions using intelligent and effective trail design and construction. 

Second, sustainability is at the very core of the NMMBA mission, and it's a high priority for other trail users, too. Our goal is to ensure that we protect environmentally sensitive areas and minimize the impact of our recreation anywhere in the Pere Marquette Forest, whether it's motorized or non-motorized. 

Finally, we want to identify, form, and build strong relationships with all trail user groups. Building a network of contacts will help us communicate needs, damage, changes, and maintenance efforts between diverse outdoor enthusiasts, such as ORVs, mountain bikers, hikers, and more. We have a strong common interest in minimizing our collective impact on the trails and forest, and the more we work together, the stronger our community and better our trail experience.

Last night, our own Tom White was very active at the DNR's meeting in Cadillac, where diverse interests came together. Many passionate people were on hand, and after a very informative presentation about the current trail openings and closures, as well as a look at the proposal, we feel confident that we can work to create a fair and equitable system that works on the basis of our three core principles. 

We invite you to communicate your questions, concerns, or feedback as mountain bikers with us, and with the DNR director. Tom also relayed some facts that might help form a better idea of the current state of affairs and timeline to contribute your input.

- The public comment forums end July 15. 
- The foresters will incorporate the public comments into a new proposal and submit to the DNR director for review in October.
- The DNR director will make the final decision or ask for revisions to be
completed in November.
- The official maps come out in December of 2017.
-  January 1, 2018 the law takes effect.
-There were approximately 7,600 miles of roads mapped in Lower Michigan.
-Approximately, 1,000 miles are designated as closed.  Approximately 86% are open.

We have proposed to work with representative from all user groups, including the ORV, skiing, hiking, and other interested parties to construct a functioning proposal to show our respective communities and offer to the DNR before the deadline closes. 

For more, we recommend visiting the DNR's page on PA 288. 

 

An Uncommon Challenge: Mountain Biking At The Old State Hospital Grounds

The old Conquer the Village MTB race, which used the Commons' trails. 

The old Conquer the Village MTB race, which used the Commons' trails. 

It's quick, fun, challenging, and extremely convenient. There are many organizations involved in developing more sustainable and attractive trails to the Commons, and at some point, we'll see some elements come together.

Pat Sullivan's recent article in the Northern Express highlighted the efforts and energies going into the trails located behind Building 50 and the Commons area. Formerly the home of a mental institution, the revitalized campus has sprouted up as home to some wonderful shops and businesses and has given Traverse City a new place to shop and relax. Its trails have always been in use, shaped by hikers and cyclists for decades. With no plan or focused building, the trails wind around wildly, go straight up hills, and are largely unsustainable. 

With so many organizations involved, NMMBA has largely filled a consolatory role, ready to help with design and building once all trail users have had the opportunity to voice their opinions on the redone trails. Part of what makes the Commons so attractive is its accessibility; dog-walkers, mountain bikers, and hikers all can access the trails quickly from town. It's also an extremely condensed trail system; it's only a few square miles, and any influx of traffic can be felt quickly.

Bellaire's economic boost is certainly exciting, and agree that the combination of the Commons, the Vasa Singletrack, and miles of unmarked singletrack, not to mention the incredible trails of Glacial Hills and Arcadia, make Northern Michigan an attractive destination for cycling. Further development would only enhance the events, trails, and other activities that make Traverse City a draw for families and cyclists from all over the world. 

The future of the Commons is truly unknown, but with so many eager and interested people involved, the health of its technical and winding trails is in very good hands. It's a place near and dear to us all, and we value a smart, sustainable and inclusive design over everything else.  

 

Victory! GTRLC Bid Accepted By GT County

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With no one sure how the evening would turn out, only a single member of the Grand Traverse County Board voted against a motion to sell the 160 acre Whitewater Township property to the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. The rest were convinced that the GTRLC bid offered more value than what could be measured in dollars. 

The GTRLC was supported by dozens of trail users that gathered at the Governmental Center, almost all of them raising green cards to support the many points in favor accepting the Conservancy's bid. Throughout public statements and a presentation for on the four bids, it was clear to both the board and everyone on hand that public opinion was strong behind the 'third' big, as presented in order of receipt from Coldwell Banker Schmidt.  

After hearing from the GTRLC and DNR, the board acknowledged that public opinion had pointed out the value of the recreational use and existing recreational zoning. The GTRLC was not the highest, but the short-term advantages of $95,000, the difference to the highest bid, are hard to measure without knowing how the loss of the parcel would harm the influx of tourism for the Iceman Cometh, Mud, Sweat and Beers and other area events that use the 160 acre parcel. 

The board reminded itself, really, that the parcel was purchased for just $60,000, making any sale to any party a solid investment. The GTRLC's plan to sell the land to the DNR in the future, and with both parties voicing their commitment to paying taxes on the land, were enough to convince any doubt on the board, save one. Commission Clous' most immediate concern was the $5,000 difference in fees the real estate company would lose by not taking the higher bid, a concern not shared by the room filled with his constituents whose interests he represents. 

Tonight, we came together to support the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy's efforts to provide protection and stewardship in our area. This parcel of pristine Pere Marquette Forest has a value beyond dollars and provides a value accessible to everyone with a love of the trails. Thank YOU for your hard work, your time, and your efforts in emailing, calling, and rallying to the Governmental Center tonight. It was your emails and your efforts that truly gave this bid to the right group, and for all the right reasons. 

Protect Our Trails: The Sand Lakes Property Meeting June 7

We've reached an important milestone in the future of our forests and trails. County and state land, or perhaps more accurately, public land is a vital feature of our area, as those forests are the protected, undeveloped homes of all sorts of recreation. It is of vital importance that those bits of property, woven together like a quilt, stay strong and continue to provide all trail users with access, especially access to multiple trail systems. 

The public recently learned that a 160-acre parcel located east of Traverse City on Sand Lakes Road would be sold by Grand Traverse County, ostensibly as a small part of a larger effort to help cover a $53 million shortfall in pension funding. Grand Traverse County has already fielded bids on the property, ranging from $200,00-250,000, including an offer above the asking price on behalf of our friends at Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. 

The GTRLC has had this property on their radar for a long time and were quick to not only put in a bid, but appeal to the greater community for support in showing the value of the property for trail users and in keeping natural spaces in that area. For mountain bikers, it's an extremely important stretch of land that helps to connect the K to TC Trail, sections of the famous Iceman Cometh Challenge, parts of the Mud, Sweat and Beers MTB race, plus important connecting trails that link up the Vasa Pathways 25k, the Vasa Singletrack, plus Sand Lakes and Muncie Lake trails. 

The parcel also includes the access to picturesque Bullhead Lake, in addition to simply existing as a part of 20,000 acres of state land on all four sides. The loss of this property to commercial development would be devastating to the area, and put the future of those trails at serious risk for the future and disrupt these connecting trails immediately. 

We believe the GTRLC offer should be accepting, with the long-term plan of the group to be to sell the property back to the public through the DNR when further options are in place. GTRLC has a long and successful history of conservation and stewardship that includes trails like Glacial Hills and Arcadia Dunes that show that their involvement would be to the environmental and perhaps even economic benefit of the public. We believe the sale of the property to any other entity would be to insult the purpose of these publically-owned parcels and all public land. 

We do not believe the public, and specifically, local trail users, should have to pay in lost trail access and natural resources for the mismanagement of County officials. Budgeting issues have a monetary value, and a moral obligation that promises made should be promises kept. However, to penalize trail uninterested organizations and parties not for a dollar amount, but for a permanent loss of natural forest and public land, would be compounding the issue and putting the County even further at odds from doing the right thing. Even the amount of the transaction is a small drop in the budget in the pension gap, and we believe there are other solutions that are will do far more to correct the problem. 

We're asking you to join us at the Governmental Center on Boardman Ave on Wendesday, June 7 at 5.30 for a meeting on this issue, and to voice your support for the GTRLC's bid, mission, and proven record of outstanding stewardship. 

The 2017 Traverse City Trails Festival Site Is LIVE!

We're really excited about the TCTF this July, and the new site is going to help us get you all the information, course maps, and great photos to get as jazzed as we are! 

One of the races sponsors, Everpresent Marketing, put this quick site together for us to share news heading into July 22's big day. You can check the site for the maps, news, sponsor information, and links to registration once it's live. We're holding off on registration until the DNR confirms our event permit, but we're confident it's all going to come together. 

We do have the race categories finalized, and you can check those out here. Note, both the 40 mile and 25 mile routes have non-competitive, self-supported tour options. Don't feel like racing? Go explore at your own pace or with friends, make full use of the aid stations, and just make sure you're back before the beer is gone...and with Short's Brewing Co. in charge of the party, we won't be short of refreshment! 

You'll always be able to contact NMMBA for updates on the race by emailing communications@nmmba.net and we'll get right back with you. We'll also be adding to our FAQs in the coming weeks, so keeping checking in with us! 

Check out the new site here! 

Introducing the 2017 Traverse City Trails Festival!

Get ready for a beautiful day on the trails! On July 22, we're inviting all the mountain bike enthusiasts to Ranch Rudolf for a day of singletrack, beer, and fun. Short's Brewing Company is helping us bring you the first annual Traverse City Trails Festival, and you won't want to miss it. 

Race it, or tour it! For those looking to test the legs, they'll be able to choose from 40 or 25 mile race distances that use the very best singletrack in the Pere Marquette Forest. If you just want to enjoy the day, you can ride those two distances for some self-supported touring with friends. If 25 miles sounds like a bit much (or you just want to get back to the beer) there's even a 15 mile shortcut option. 

This event is all about celebrating our community and our trails. It truly is a day for cyclists, by cyclists, with all of the event's sponsors integral parts of the sport in the region. Short's Brewing has always done so much to support healthy, active outdoor lifestyles in Northern Michigan, and as you well know, they sure know how to put on a party once the race is done! 

Stay tuned to the site over the coming weeks as registration opens and we have more news about the course, the race, the prizes, and the fun heading into July 22. Until then, happy trails! 

You can also follow us on Facebook for updates and photos! 

The Future of the Vasa Singletrack by Chad Jordan

We are a volunteer-based,  trail-stewardship driven, building and maintenance Mountain Bike Association that has been active in Northern Michigan for 10 years. We're also mountain bikers ourselves, and we take great pride in our role as ambassadors for our sport, our region, and the people that make up our cycling community. 

You may know of NMMBA from our recent efforts to groom and maintain the Winter Sports Loop for fatbike and multiuser use. Our winter efforts have re-energized and reemphasized our focus on the condition of the trail in spring, summer and fall. To that end, we've established a committee in within the NMMBA board to improve the Vasa Singletrack, known as re:ViSiT.

The efforts to revitalize the VST closely align to our overarching goals as an organization. It is our Mission to:

-Inspire people in Northern Michigan to experience the outdoors

-Promote mountain biking and healthy trail use in Northern Michigan

-Build and maintain sustainable trails for everyone to enjoy

Those goals are perfectly embodied by the history and development of the VST. That history began with a trailhead on Supply Road, giving trails users access to the beautiful Pere Marquette State Forest. The trails we ride today were officially recognized over 20 years ago by local trail advocates. Because of the tight and technical nature of the trail, it is one directional and very well marked. 

The trail system consists of an outer loop of 13 miles. It also has a smaller 10 mile and 3 mile loop contained within it. The total elevation roughly 400 vertical feet, with most of that elevation at relatively gradual gradients.  These attributes make the trail very user-friendly and enjoyable to all skill levels, as well as a terrific place to learn the basic skills of riding in the woods. 

On any given night throughout the spring, summer, fall, and now winter, you'll find the parking lot off Supply Road filled with cars from all over the area, and from all over the state. The trailhead has become a place to stop, relax, picnic, share stories, and talk about the trail with other users. 

The VST has also become an important landmark in area efforts to make sure our sport has a future. Every Sunday in the summer, at high noon, the lot is filled with orange jerseys. Norte Youth Cycling hosts 'Vasa Domingos', the kid-paced, family-oriented mountain bike ride that draws kids as young as five and as old as late teens to put in a lap, learn the skills, and start developing a love for a healthy, active lifestyle outdoors. 

In the winter, this trailhead is home to the Winter Sports Loop with groomed fatbike trails. Fat biking is a fast-growing segment of the cycling industry, and the 4" or wider tires are perfect not only for snow riding, but for the rough and sandy conditions that we find with our sandy soils. 

The VST has a tremendous value, and we feel that with some work, a plan, and some patience, we can improve the trail to be more fun, more attractive, and more enjoyable for all users. 

The Revitalization Plan

The founding fathers of the VST should be proud. The VST has certainly gotten its use and decades of enjoyment have taken their toll. Many sections of the trail have been worn out, with large sand pits getting deeper and wider, roots are becoming exposed, rough, and dangerous. Our three-phase plan is shaped not to expand the trail, but to improve and fix the existing trails. 

Phase 1 (Short-term)

Phase 1 is already underway. These efforts include:

-Trimming, roots, branches, and stumps.

-Redesign and reroute poorly designed sections

-Alter trail to change the speed in certain sections of trail

-Fix deep sand pits and prevent sand sections from spreading

-Take advantage of decades of trail design experience

-Parking lot expansion

Phase 2 (Next Season)

-Continue with designated reroutes. We'll be able to learn, adjust, and correct the trail based on real world feedback. 

-Work to improve relationships between NMMBA, the DNR, trail users, and other trail organizations. We understand that the health of our natural resources requires all hands and all voices.

-Install a water source. 

-Begin campaign for Pavillion or warming hut, especially for fat bikers in the winter. 

Phase 3 (2-3 years out)

-Adding shape and structure to the parking lot and incorporate experiential features

-Design/build Pavillion  

-Continued maintenance

-Organize trail days and race/tour days

We recognize the Vasa Single Track to be the destination of our off-road cycling community and are excited about the life the trail will receive during and after or revitalization plan.  We invite any and all of you to use the trail and contact NMMBA with any ideas and vision you may have for the VST. We plan to leave this trail better than we received it.