Moab, Utah has established itself as one of the preeminent mountain bike destinations in the world and it all started in the early 1980’s. It was a combination of some local characters who opened the first bike shop, strange bikes with fat tires, a lumpy landscape called “Slickrock”, some beautiful photography, the first mountain bike magazine adorned with photos of Moab and some harbingers from Marin and Crested Butte (some of whom are still here today) that put Moab on the biking map. As the sport took hold, Moab attracted more and more visitors. Moab became the hot spot for everyone in the industry and at Halloween in 1986 the legendary Canyonlands Fat Tire Festival was born. Hundreds of old biking farts still reminisce about the ‘raddest’ and ‘baddest’ festival in biking history.
While the geologic wonders that create this world class playground remain relatively unchanged, the biking landscape has evolved. There are numerous bike shops, mountain bike outfitters and shuttle companies who cater to the multitude of tourists who arrive annually. Back in the day, people braved skinny little cow trails and hundreds of miles of old jeep roads used for uranium mining on fully rigid bikes. As the sport grew and technology advanced, however, people have gravitated toward the more challenging realm of singletrack. And as a concerned non-motorized enthusiasts have found out, singletrack doesn’t happen overnight.
In 2000, Grand County, where Moab is located, began working on a Road Ownership Project. They decided to convene a committee to examine the spaghetti system of roads on the county transportation map. Their mission was to identify roads that could be eliminated and thus have a map to present to the state for the lawsuit to defend the county right of ways. A forward thinking member of the County Council thought the timing was right to establish a committee for non-motorized users to protect their interest.
In December of 1999, Trail Mix, a county sponsored advisory committee for non-motorized trails, was born. Starting in September of 2000, participants would meet monthly but did not actually elect officers until February of 2002 when they elected a Chair and Vice Chair and the county began funding at $10,000 a year. At that meeting the County, City, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Forest Service, Utah School Trust Lands (SITLA) and Utah Dept. of Transportation all had a seat at the table. The National Park Service would soon also become a member.
In 2003 the BLM started work on a Resource Management Plan (RMP) due to increased visitation, resource damage, public pressure and shared use conflicts. Mountain bike enthusiasts were approaching the BLM and the Forest Service for more singletrack. Around 2007, the first approved singletrack on BLM, Baby Steps, was laid out. Trail Mix, however, had to wait for the BLM to complete the RMP before proposing any more trails on BLM land. The history of the RMP is critical because it laid the foundation for the new trail systems that Moab boasts today.
In 2008 the RMP was completed and put into place, covering 1.5 million acres of BLM land in Grand County and giving mountain bikers six focus areas, amounting to around 100,000 acres. Trail Mix now had the ability to answer the demand of the cycling enthusiasts to build 150 miles of non-motorized singletrack. Yay!
The need for singletrack and for non-motorized advocacy became more and more apparent. Citizens concerned for the future of Moab’s trail system started to mobilize and heighten their involvement in trail development. Several other non-profit organizations formed including Moab Trail Alliance(MTA) (the driving force behind our new and awesome paved paths and improved Lion’s Park Transit Hub) and Ride with Respect (RwR)(which created the multi-use Sovereign Trail). More and more locals attended the Trail Mix meetings and continue to donate hours of work to trail building.
In June of 2011 the Forest Service opened up comments for a new non- motorized travel plan for our local mountains, the La Sal Mountains. As Moab has learned, singletrack development is a complex issue, even within the mountain bike community. It was during this process that many residents realized the need for an even greater unifying voice and looked to IMBA. Many of the same characters who have been involved with Trail Mix and MTA, along with some new faces formed the Moab chapter (MMBA) of IMBA in September of 2013.
It is the goal of MMBA to work closely with Trail Mix, MTA, RwR and the local land agencies. It also encourages more locals to participate in the continuing efforts to create, maintain and to keep non-motorized trails open. Moab also recognized the need to extend our voice beyond the physical boundaries of our small town to involve all visitors, many who are international, who recreate here year after year.
Fifteen years after the inception of Trail Mix, Moab has a solid non-motorized trails master plan, an excellent working relationship with all the local land managers, 100 miles of new singletrack and a paved alternative transportation system worth over 20 million dollars here in Grand County. With the new Forest Service non-motorized trail plan in the mix and other future developments in sight, the Moab mountain bike community, with its’ new IMBA chapter, is now excited to tap into a wider network of mountain bikers and have access to resources and support from all cycling enthusiasts who love Moab, Utah as much as we do.