uman Powered Trails, Inc. is a non-profit organization whose mission is: “To develop and maintain first class sustainable and environmentally correct, human-powered, shared use trails for the La Crosse, WI region."
|Local bikers want to turn region into a cycling hub|
|Written by By CHRIS HUBBUCH | email@example.com|
|Tuesday, 09 December 2008 06:15|
Eight years ago, a group of La Crosse mountain bikers went to the city begging for a place to ride.
Since then, Human Powered Trails has built more than 12 miles of world-class trails that attract riders from throughout the region to La Crosse’s bluff tops.
Now the volunteer-run organization says that with the Coulee Region’s unique terrain and abundant natural resources it could be a bicycling mecca and multi-million dollar tourist magnet.
By developing more trails, La Crosse could become one of the nation’s first designated “ride centers,” attracting mountain bikers from all over the country. Coupled with an existing network of blacktopped back roads and bike trails and the recreational opportunities afforded by three rivers, it could be a world-class destination for outdoor enthusiasts of all stripes, proponents say.
“Now we’re taking it to the next level,” said Mike Charron, vice president of HPT.
The ride center concept was developed in 2003 by the International Mountain Bicycling Association: build networks of expertly designed trails at key locations around the country. The first five are nearing completion, and La Crosse is among about 10 sites under consideration for development.
“It could be one of the top destinations in the country for trails and riding,” said Scott Linnenburger, director of field operations for IMBA in Boulder, Colo. “In my opinion, it’s got better terrain than Boulder.”
Linnenburger is in Wisconsin this week to help HPT present the vision to city, county and state officials.
IMBA has staff and expertise to help communities create trails — and the marketing power to promote them to about 40 million American mountain bikers.
But it takes cooperation from all levels of government — and money — to make it happen, Linnenburger said.
Using HPT’s volunteer labor model, it would take decades to create the mass of trails proposed. And more land is needed to complete a proposed bluff-top preserve stretching eight miles from Hwy. B to Hwy 14/61.
In five years, the nonprofit agency tasked with acquiring the land as outlined in the city’s master bluffland protection plan has amassed about 900 acres. It needs at least 1,000 more — in dozens of parcels — to complete the corridor, said Tim Jacobson, executive director of the Mississippi Valley Conservancy.
Advocates say the benefits would be lucrative.
IMBA cites a 2006 study by the Canadian Mountain Bike Tourism Association that estimates a network of trails from Vancouver to Whistler brings in about $30 million a year to the local economies.
While the trails would attract cyclists, they wouldn’t be exclusive, Charron said. HPT trails are used by hikers, skiers and even horseback riders.
Trails add value to property, and improve quality of life for local residents, Charron said.
But nothing will happen without cooperation from local governments.
So far, decision makers have been receptive to the concept, Linnenburger said. “You can’t ask for more than open ears.”