As many of our readers know, Arkansas is home to five International Mountain Bicycling Association EPIC Trails, Womble, Syllamo, LOViT, Upper Buffalo, and Ouachita National Recreation Trail. This currently places us tied for second in the country for total number of Epics, Colorado also has five and California has seven. We also have three IMBA Ride Centers, Bentonville, Fayetteville, and Hot Springs, plus the only Regional Ride Center in the country, Northwest Arkansas. It’s a lot to brag about but what now? Which Arkansas mountain bike trails are next to be designated as EPIC? My money would be on Iron Mountain near Arkadelphia and/or the Back 40 in Bella Vista, but I’ve been wrong before. Do we have any communities ready for Ride Center status? Maybe Little Rock/North Little Rock? Who knows.
While we have been busy building incredible trail all over Arkansas, IMBA has been reworking their Model Trail Program which designates the Ride Centers and Epics. While details on the changes in the process are still a little foggy, it looks from their news release below that there is going to be a tiered fees component I don’t believe existed in the past. The rest we won’t know until May. Either way, it looks like it will be imperative that communities that would like to be recognized in the future, they will have to find a way to come up with funding. Notice at the bottom of the news release that they did have the foresight to mention one of the greatest and our first Epic, the Womble.
International Mountain Bicycling Association News Release:
The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) is ready to relaunch Model Trails after putting the program on hold in 2016 to reshape its process and offerings. For more than a decade, the Ride Centers and Epics designated through the Model Trails program have become iconic mountain bike destinations that influence communities across the country and the world to raise the bar on great places to ride.
“It was time for IMBA to evolve its Model Trails program to mirror the evolution of our organization and our sport,” said Dave Wiens, IMBA’s Executive Director. “We’re ready to roll out a program that continues elevating communities showing a commitment to mountain biking, from the essential backyard trails to those backcountry classics.”
The Revised Application
The revised application process for 2017 designations will open in early May and close in late June. An in-person, in-depth review of each application by IMBA’s expert team of reviewers will take place over the summer and early fall, and designee announcements will be made in November. Tiered fees will be associated with the application and review process, based on the length of review required and optional additional technical support requested by applicants. Exact dates and more information will be announced and listed at imba.com/model-trails as the 2017 timeline is finalized.
The review process is a valuable opportunity for IMBA’s experts to be on the ground with local applicants. It will help IMBA chapters, community stakeholders and land managers understand the strengths of a trail system as well as identify areas for improvements.
“The Ride Center designation is as much about the process as it is the award, by helping community partners use the process as the blueprint for creating amazing places to ride,” said Andy Williamson, Program Director at IMBA.
History of Model Trails Program
The Model Trails program, launched in the early 2000’s, recognizes outstanding mountain bike trails and locations through Epic designations and gold, silver and bronze-level Ride Center designations. These designations become a strong asset for communities looking to attract riders and build bike economy. Ride Centers represent mountain bike friendly communities and destinations that offer something for every rider, like the mixed terrain mecca of Park City, UT, and the mountain bike paradise of modest Oakridge, OR. For a complete list of current ride centers, visit imba.com. Epic designations recognize demanding and iconic backcountry singletrack rides in natural settings. From the 39-mile Womble Epic in Arkansas to Nevada’s leg-busting Tahoe Rim Trail, see the complete list of Epics at imba.com.