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.