We hope Rim Country community leaders hop on the recent plea for dedicated trails for mountain bikers and ride it whooping, hollering like a thrill rider on a downhill run on a spring day.
The International Mountain Bike Association last week made an invaluable presentation before town leaders to underscore the tourism benefits of single track trails for mountain bikers, riders and hikers.
They pointed out that the greater Payson area has fallen far behind Show Low, Sedona, Flagstaff, Tucson, Globe and (if you can believe it) Black Canyon City in providing world-class trails to lure any of those 55 million Americans with a mountain bike in the garage.
The advocates for mountain biking suggested getting back in the race with a scenic, 30-mile loop trail closed to motorized vehicles and designed for mountain bikers — which would also make a wonderful hiking or riding trail.
Mayor Kenny Evans responded to the presentation by promising to set up a study group to add such a trail to the vital, but still infant Payson Area Trails System.
Creating the kinds of trails that will attract those high-end adventure tourism dollars from the Valley and elsewhere faces two great barriers.
First, the Payson Ranger District has to change its policy to allow for the creation of a trail network that excludes motorized vehicles. Second, the off-road vehicle community must see this as an opportunity — not a threat.
No one wants to close most of the existing network of roads and two-track trails to off-roaders. Not only would that punish many local residents who dearly love their quads — it would drive off an equally vital source of adventure travel dollars. That’s especially true now that Maricopa County is closing down many dirt roads to reduce air pollution caused by dust.
Instead, off-roaders should support the creation of a quality, single-track trails system as a way to protect their own trails and a sign that the town understands the vital role that outdoor activities play in the tourism industry, which remains the mainstay of the economy.
Admittedly, the road ahead is steep, the rocks are large and the ruts are deep. But let’s strap on a helmet and let ’er rip.