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.  

NMMBA At MSB!

We had a blast helping design, clear, mark, and sweep the course this past Saturday! Our own Kim White documented the process from conception to completion, and we'll take you along for the ride. 

See it. Before we get out in the woods, we made a provisional route that balanced fresh sections of singletrack and open trail to allow for plenty of passing opportunities. When you put 800+ people into the woods in 30 minutes, it's important for the health of the race to avoid backups as much as possible. We also examine how much traffic might affect certain sections and remove them if they may become too sandy, loose, or rutted with pre-riding or increased traffic after the race is over. 

Next, we get out there! Our board and PLENTY of volunteers got out to pre-ride the route and begin the process of marking the route. As you know, it really helps to have riders and racers marking a course. They know exactly how hard racers are going and what they're looking for headed toward every intersection. We're proud to say that everyone was on course! 

We even got in on the action! Steve Mentzer and Mike Walters were out racing with 800+ of their pals and teammates, including Chris Gallagher and Dave Bucholtz!

Then, we sweep! Liz Belt and Chris Wood provided some mechanical support on the Stout course, while Tom White headed back out for another lap after finalizing markings.