Help wanted: Trail builders of a bike mind

Construction of new singletrack starts this weekend near Fruita

Nick Reasner and Leah Hillbrand, accompanied by Naji the dog, ride one of the bike trails in the North Fruita desert area along 18 Road. New trails are in the works.

When the Bureau of Land Management put the finishing touches on a plan to manage 72,000 acres of public land known as the North Fruita Desert in 2004, one of the document’s highlights called for the creation of 8 1/2 miles of new singletrack. It would be a bonus for an already world famous mountain-biking area.

Seven years after the plan’s release, not a single shovelful of dirt has been moved out there.

That’s about to change.

A partnership among the Bureau of Land Management, the city of Fruita and the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association will result in the construction of a new 1.3-mile trail in the desert off 18 Road this weekend, with another three mountain bike trails and a combined mountain bike and motorcycle trail planned in the next year.

The additions will provide a fresh playground for the tens of thousands of mountain bikers who flock each year to the system of trails boasting names like Zippity Do Da and Chutes & Ladders, boosting the bottom lines of hotels, restaurants and other businesses in the process.

Fruita City Manager Clint Kinney said the new trails will help keep Fruita the “mountain bike capital of the world.”

“We need to continue to improve the product we offer,” he said.

The BLM approved the trail that will be built this weekend and is expected to approve three other trails this fall or early next year. The city of Fruita contributed $3,000 to the construction of the first trail and will commit up to $20,000 for all four mountain-biking trails.

COPMOBA spearheaded the design of the trails and will lead a crew of volunteers to build them.

Altogether, the project will add about 6 1/2 miles of single-track to the roughly 70-mile network of mountain-biking trails in the North Fruita Desert.

Michelle Bailey, supervisory recreation planner for the BLM, said much of the reason why it took so many years to add new trails to the North Fruita Desert is that the BLM crafted management plans for the North Fruita Desert and Bangs Canyon at about the same time but received special funding to develop trails for Bangs Canyon only. The Bangs Canyon funding also had to be spent within five years, she said.

While one trail will be built this weekend, two others need more survey work, and a fourth needs to be rerouted. Bailey expects the BLM to approve them this fall.

The BLM will begin work next year on a fifth trail, a 12- to 14-mile singletrack that will accommodate mountain bikes and motorcycles, she said.

Gary Smith, a board member with COPMOBA, said the North Fruita Desert is popular with out-of-towners, and the campground at the end of 18 Road is routinely full.

“The unique thing about that area that we don’t have anywhere else is that you can go out there and camp and you can ride your bike right from your tent to this trail system,” Smith said. “There are no other opportunities like that in the valley.”


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