National Park Service Announces Expanded Opportunities for Mountain Biking

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For Immediate Release 7-10-2012
Contact Mark Eller
IMBA Communications Director
303-545-9011 ext. 115

The National Park Service recently announced changes designed to expand opportunities for mountain biking in parks nationwide. “Bikes are a great way to exercise, get healthy, and experience the great outdoors,” said NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “This new rule gives park superintendents greater flexibility to determine where bikes can be allowed in a park and additional authority to shut areas where cycling is jeopardizing visitors or park resources.”

IMBA and the NPS have held a formal partnership agreement since 2005. The new rule (available online) is another step forward in that relationship, providing park staff with a more streamlined administrative process and localized decision making about where the best opportunities for mountain biking exist.

“IMBA’s policy is to work with parks that express an interest in developing opportunities for mountain biking,” says Mike Van Abel, the group’s executive director. “We are not interested in trying to insert mountain biking into all national parks or putting bikes on every NPS trail. But we know from experience that well-designed, sustainable trails can be successfully shared by different types of users.”

There are already more than 40 NPS properties that allow mountain biking on dirt roads and trails. Research from the Outdoor Industry Association shows that bicycling is one of the most popular forms of recreation — especially among young people. “At a time when park visitation is declining, and America’s youth is becoming more sedentary, it’s good to see the NPS taking this positive step,” said Van Abel. “There are already successful examples from national parks that offer mountain biking; my organization looks forward to helping create many more of them.”

Some groups have questioned whether mountain biking is compatible with the NPS’ conservation values, but current research shows that the impacts of mountain biking are similar to those caused by hiking. Studies indicate that when it comes to trails, the major issue is not the type of user but the way the trail is designed and built.

The NPS announcement has already earned praise from influential U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D-CO). “As an avid supporter of outdoor recreation and healthy living, I am quite pleased that the National Park Service has streamlined the process to make mountain biking available in our national parks without compromising the values that make our parks the envy of the world,” Udall said. “Colorado’s breathtaking scenery and incomparable mountains are a premiere destination for outdoor enthusiasts. This move could help expand the allure of our parks and create new opportunities for Colorado’s thriving outdoor recreation economy.”