NOHVCC Staff Participates in (and Learns from) IMBA Trail Lab!
By Geoff Chain, NOHVCC Project Coordinator
I’m all about anything that involves being outside and active, especially if it involves wheels. Being an avid OHV enthusiast, mountain biker, and hiker gives me pretty good insight and perspective into what’s going on in the different outdoor sports and activities. Being active in multiple modes of outdoor recreation allows me to be involved with all sorts of advocacy groups. I’m especially interested in learning what works for these other organizations, and if their successes can be applied in a positive way to OHV recreation. Working with other organizations also presents an opportunity to collaborate and share ideas.
The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) has a similar mission to NOHVCC, albeit on pedal powered machines. I heard they were conducting a “Trail Lab” in Bentonville, AR with an emphasis on using trails for community development and vitality and thought it would be a great opportunity to learn and share. The Trail Lab was advertised as an in-depth workshop where “attendees will learn what it takes to create a model trail community and return home with the knowledge and guidance for how to make it happen” (https://www.imba.com/event/trail-labs). I would love to see more OHV trails that tie communities together, providing economic vitality especially to those smaller communities which may have historically been reliant on extractive industries and agriculture.
Bentonville is best known as the headquarters of Wal-Mart but is also gaining a reputation as a world-class mountain biking destination. Millions of dollars have been invested in the trail system which has not only generated a net positive return on their investment but has also attracted new businesses and created a vibrant and active community. New residents are moving to areas like Bentonville without necessarily having a job lined up just because of the lifestyle available. That’s a true paradigm shift and a testament of the power that recreation opportunities provide in a community.
The workshop was two full days with each day being split into classroom sessions, and outside sessions touring the trails around town. There are singletrack trails with jumps that connect elementary schools to neighborhoods (shred to school), trails in between roads and paved paths, beginner skill training areas and pump tracks, as well as a bicycle playground for kids. It’s truly staggering just how much investment has been made into the community, and how it has paid off.
IMBA did a great job conducting the workshop and I came away with a variety of ideas on how community centric trail development can be applied to OHV use. Everyone in attendance was enthusiastic and engaged, and I might have even converted a few cyclists to OHV enthusiasts to boot. I look forward to inviting IMBA representatives to a NOHVCC Workshop to continue the collaboration.