Trail association honored for work

A rider on the Kokopelli trail rounds a snarled old tree

Outside his family and his job, Bill Harris has dedicated his life to mountain biking.

The 61-year-old Montrose registered nurse was one of a few people who started the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association (COPMOBA).

Since the association was officially incorporated in 1989, it has built a 345-mile mountain bike trail system called the Grand Loop. COPMOBA has built, maintained or advocated 75 trails over 1,500 miles in western Colorado and eastern Utah. The trails are recognized as some of the most well-known in the country.

After 20 years of work, COPMOBA is being recognized with induction into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame on Sept. 23 at the Interbike Trade Show in Las Vegas.

“I am totally ecstatic,” Harris said. “Essentially, this has been my main focus of my life outside my family and job for 20 years. The fact that other people recognize what our organization has done makes me extremely happy.”

COPMOBA President Chris Muhr was somewhat surprised to hear of the association’s induction.

“That was almost a surprise,” he said. “There are only two advocacy groups in the Hall of Fame, including us. The other group is in Switzerland.”

COPMOBA has played a large role in building three sets of trail systems on the Western Slope, including the first interstate bike trail, Kokepelli’s Trail, from Loma to Moab, and the world’s first interpretive mountain bike trail, Rustler’s Loop.

“I believe what COPMOBA has done is trend-setting,” Harris said. “We’re on the cutting edge with mountain bike trails. Back in early days, we came up with a mountain bike paradigm. You’ve got mountain bikers, land agencies and tourism, recreation and bicycle industries. Those three work together to build trails. Each comes to the table with expertise.”

The non-profit organization started with the 138-mile Kokepelli’s Trail.

Before that trail was finished, COPMOBA started on the Tabeguache trails in 1990, beginning near the Colorado National Monument. 

Five years later, the organization began building the Paradox trail system west of Montrose, south to Nucla and to the La Sal Mountains south of Moab.

COPMOBA has done it all by hand and with permission from the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. REI, Inc., the Intermountain Mountain Bike Association and Great Outdoors Colorado have contributed money to COPMOBA’s trail-building efforts, Harris said.

“The BLM has been a real good partner,” Harris said. “They recognize people want trails.

They recognize they need to work with groups like ours. We’re not handmaiden to BLM and we don’t have heavy-duty influence on them, either.

“When you are working with a group of people you don’t have control over, it behooves you to work together. Their interests may not fit what you want to do.”

COPMOBA completed 12 miles of trails at the Lunch Loop area this summer and recently finished a 15-mile alpine trail, called Flowing Park Trail, on Grand Mesa.

COPMOBA is working on the Palisade Rim Trail east of Palisade, but is facing some access issues. An archeological study was recently completed that cost $1,200, Muhr said.

Getting approval from the BLM and getting access to build the trails is all part of the process.

“Some people say you don’t move fast enough,” Harris said. “Our point is, if you want to make it last a long time, you’ve got to slow down. Sometimes it may seem like we’re moving at a glacial pace, given the circumstances.”


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